The Renewable Fuels Association today thanked a bipartisan group of senators for asking Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to ensure USDA uses funding recently appropriated under the CARES Act to assist ethanol producers who are suffering the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a letter to Secretary Perdue, the 15 senators noted that more than 4 billion gallons of ethanol production capacity has been recently idled as fuel demand has been pummeled by COVID-19.
“Farm income and prices for corn and other crop commodities are directly linked to the health of the renewable fuel industry,” wrote the senators. “Keeping plants open is vital for our states and we ask that you use the authority given by Congress to assist the biofuel industry during extremely difficult times.”
“Once again, renewable fuel champions in the Senate are working tirelessly to stand up for an industry that is vitally important to rural America,” RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper said. “We thank them for recognizing the unprecedented challenges facing ethanol producers today and seeking solutions to help our industry weather this storm. Ethanol prices have plunged to record lows, stocks are at all-time highs, and plants throughout the Heartland are shutting down. As ethanol serves as the largest market for U.S. corn growers, the well-being of the ethanol industry is directly linked to farm income and the livelihood of farm families across the nation. We agree with the senators that providing assistance to the renewable fuels industry would be an appropriate and timely use of emergency relief funding appropriated to USDA.”
Cooper noted that, as of Monday, 41 ethanol plants with an annual production capacity of 3.2 billion gallons (BG) have been fully idled, while 66 plants have reduced their output rates by a collective 1.8 BG. Another 13 plants with 0.8 BG of capacity were closed or idled due to other factors prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, he said, a total of about 5.8 BG of capacity is idle today, representing more than a third of the industry’s total production capacity. On an annualized basis, this would represent a potential lost demand for 1.7 billion bushels of corn.
Signing the Senate letter to Sec. Perdue were Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst of Iowa, Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley of Missouri, John Thune and Mike Rounds of South Dakota, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Tammy Duckworth and Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith of Minnesota, and Sherrod Brown of Ohio.