January 8, 2021
With only 12 days until the Biden presidential inauguration, agriculture is waiting to see what a shift in power will mean for agricultural policy. There is already optimism sprouting from some agricultural groups, with leaders saying the Biden Administration is taking an extremely proactive approach.
“I have been in Washington since Ronald Reagan was President, so I've seen administrations come and I’ve seen administrations go. I have never, ever seen the kind of outreach to agriculture that I’ve seen with the Biden folks,” says Jon Doggett, CEO of National Corn Growers Association (NCGA). “And it isn't one or two calls, it has been multiple calls at multiple levels, across the board and with many different organizations.”
Doggett says he personally received a phone call from Biden’s EPA pick, Michael Regan, just before Christmas. Doggett also says NCGA isn’t alone, and the common theme is Regan and others want to listen to what issues agriculture is facing.
“And it hasn't just been him,” says Doggett. “There have been multiple outreaches. I know that our D.C. folks have heard from those folks. So, I'm really encouraged that that they are reaching out. And what is even more important is they seem to be wanting to listen rather than to tell us stuff.”
One of those issues pressing for groups like NCGA and others has to do with the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) says the EPA still hasn’t released blending requirements – or RVOS–for 2021, which they say is creating uncertainty among refiners and ethanol producers.
“The current administrator, Andrew Wheeler, is leaving the agency with a lot of balls in the air around the RFS and a lot of messes that need cleaned up,” says Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of RFA. “That's really going to fall to the Biden Administration to do that.”
Cooper, along with Emily Skor of Growth Energy, are optimistic a Biden Administration will follow the RFS as Congress intended.
"We have high expectations,” says Skor. “Mr. Biden campaigned very strong on the trail on the importance of biofuels, not only for revitalizing the rural economy, but also for addressing climate change. So, he campaigned with very strong statements of support for the Renewable Fuel Standard. He very severely admonished the Trump administration’s EPA for its abuse of the small refinery exemptions. So, certainly within the first 100 days, there's going to be opportunities for the EPA, in particular, to take action to right the ship and restore integrity to the Renewable Fuel Standard. “
Skor says if the Biden Administration does restore the RFS, she thinks the market will respond positively.
“If the administration does that, that's like an injection of adrenaline in the arm of rural America,” says Skor. “We need that. We're optimistic that's going to be the case. So certainly, that's been part of the conversation, the short-term opportunities, and the long term. As you see heightened commerce conversation around a clean energy future, we need to have a seat at the table. We are a readily available and affordable solution. And that's something that we need to see embraced and others are anticipating that will soon change.”
Even with a change in administration accompanied by Democrats gaining majority of the Senate, Doggett is hopeful a theme of compromise will take hold and bode well for agriculture.
“In agriculture, anytime we've ever won anything in the Congress, it has been when we played within the 40-yard lines,” he says. “And I am really encouraged with what I see is an emerging group of senators from both sides of the aisle, moderates who are willing to get together in and find some agreements.”