INDIANAPOLIS - The Trump administration has unveiled a plan to increase U.S. biofuels consumption and help farmers struggling with low grain prices, weather challenges and trade war fatigue. The Indiana Corn Growers Association is welcoming the news which would boost next year the amount of ethanol that oil refiners must add to gasoline production.

“As harvest season continues throughout the state, this is an important win for Hoosier corn farmers,” said Ferdinand, Indiana farmer J.R. Roesner, who is also a member of the National Corn Growers Association’s Ethanol Action Team. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Friday announced a series of proposed rules designed to ensure the future and return to the intent of the Renewable Fuel Standard. The RFS sets a minimum requirement for blending biofuels into petroleum, both gasoline and diesel.

“Today’s agreement is the latest in a series of steps we have taken to expand domestic energy production and improve the Renewable Fuel Standard program that will result in sustained biofuel production to help American farmers,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.

The EPA says it will explore expanding the current levels of ethanol next year.  While EPA did not give a specific amount of the increase, the agency did say more than 15 billion gallons of conventional (corn-based) ethanol would be blended into the nation’s fuel supply beginning in 2020.There would also be a boost to soybean-based biodiesel.

The National Corn Growers Association said in a statement “…that EPA will reopen the rulemaking for the 2020 RFS volumes and propose to account for waivers in the volume requirements allows EPA to follow the law and restore integrity to the RFS.”

The Trump Administration angered corn grower’s associations and renewable fuel trade groups earlier this year when it granted waivers to oil refiners from the mandated levels of ethanol use as prescribed by the RFS.

The pro-ethanol lobby said the exemptions undercut demand for corn and canceled the production of more than a billion gallons of biofuels.

South Dakota-based POET energy blamed the waivers, in part, for its announced-closing of ts Indiana ethanol plant in Cloverdale, leading to the layoff of 50 workers. A WARN letter sent to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development when the layoffs were first announced in August indicated the layoffs would be effective October 18.

Inside INdiana Business reached out to POET Energy for an update on the closing but had not heard back by publication time.

According to Indiana Corn Growers, approximately 47 percent of Indiana’s corn crop goes toward ethanol production.

“We need EPA to follow the Renewable Fuels Standard. We are grateful that steps are being planned to guarantee RFS obligations are met,” said Roesner of the ICGA. 

The ethanol industry received a boost from the Trump administration earlier this year by lifting restrictions that banned the sale of E15 during summer months.