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Long-awaited, Northey confirmed as Undersecretary at USDA

By voice vote, the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination of Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey to the position of USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation.

Northey has been serving as Secretary of Agriculture for Iowa and the confirmation is generally viewed as a big win for agriculture and renewable fuels.

“After a needless four-month delay, farmers across the country will be well-served with Bill Northey finally on the job at USDA,” said Kevin Skunes, president of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA).

The confirmation came at a very critical time for the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) in the ongoing debate over Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs). Renewable fuel opponents have been pushing for capped RIN values, claiming the costs are too high for refineries.  

“Today in Washington President Trump, officials from USDA and EPA, and Senators met to discuss issues affecting the RFS. There was no deal cut at this meeting. While no deal was made at this meeting, some participants tried to sell a deal,” Skunes said. “Our farmers cannot afford any deal that undermines demand for ethanol. We continue to believe the elusive win-win solution involves regulatory parity for E15 and higher blends of ethanol, essentially allowing year-round sales of E15, and improved transparency in the RIN marketplace. Parity for higher blends would increase the supply of RINs and lower RIN values, allowing the RFS to work as it is intended. Farmers understand how supply affects price.

“A cap on RIN values hurts farmers because it reduces ethanol consumption below current levels. This reduction in corn use will push already low corn prices even lower.”

The National Corn Growers Association has made protecting the RFS and the system of RINs a top priority.

“Just last November, the EPA concluded RIN values are not causing economic harm to refiners,” Skunes said. “The failings of one company should not be used to destroy a successful energy policy that serves not only millions of farmers who rely on strong market demand created by the RFS, but also the hundreds of ethanol and biodiesel plants and tens of thousands of plant workers.”

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