WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — The Trump administration says it’s on a mission to protect the nation’s food supply and rescue farmers and ranchers impacted by COVID-19.
On Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a $19 billion aid package to help. But missing from that package was money for biofuel producers who are suffering huge demand losses as millions of Americans have stopped driving.
Illinois Democrat Cheri Bustos says she’s disappointed that the relief program doesn’t cover biofuel producers.
“That is an market that has been devastated,” Bustos said.
But USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue says his authority doesn’t extend to energy production.
“We don’t have a fundamental way to help that sector,” Purdue said.
Bustos isn’t buying it.
‘He’s the secretary of agriculture, for god’s sake,” she said. “I just don’t accept from Secretary Perdue that that is not something he can play in.”
But Illinois Republicans Rodney Davis and Darrin LaHood accept Perdue’s position that additional action is needed to support the biofuel industry.
“Our job as members of Congress is not to criticize the administration,” Davis said. “Our job is to actually go back, come together and get things done on their behalf.”
LaHood believes the responsibility falls to the energy department and inside the White House.
“That’s where these decisions are going to be made at, and that’s where I’ve put most of my focus,” he said.
Ethanol makes up about 40% of the corn industry. But with fewer people driving, demand has dried up.
Emily Skor with Growth Energy warns that more harm is on the way for the industry.
“If we’re not producing ethanol, we’re also not producing our co-products. The high-protein animal feed for livestock, the liquid CO2 that’s used in the meat processing,” she said. “So there’s actually an impact for a lot of agriculture.”
The Environmental Protection Agency is also considering waiving blending requirements for oil companies, which could make things even worse for ethanol producers.
“The agency is watching the situation closely, and will make the appropriate determination at the appropriate time,” an EPA spokesperson said.