Biofuel makers call for inclusion in next coronavirus relief package


WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — As federal lawmakers continue to fight over the details of the next coronavirus response package, biofuel producers are saying they should not be left out.

The last package didn’t include direct aid to biofuel producers but did send billions to big oil companies, which President Donald Trump vowed to revive after months of deteriorating sales.

“We’re sitting here supporting Exxon and ConocoPhillips and Chevron,” said Jim Leiting, who runs a plant in Iowa that converts corn into ethanol. “Where’s the biofuels?”

He said demand has tanked. More than 100 biofuel plants have already stopped production, he said, or completely shut down.

“The biofuel industry only wants to have what’s fair for them so they can continue and support the Midwest,” Leiting said.

Lawmakers from the Midwest say they will push for a more fair deal this time around.

“It’s a matter of equity,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said.

He said the relief proposal put forth by his fellow Republicans in the Senate includes $20 billion in agriculture aid and is urging U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to give biofuel producers a share.

Last time, however, Perdue said it wasn’t within his power to extend that aid.

“If the secretary of agriculture takes that same position again, he’s going to run into a hornets’ nest with (fellow Iowa Republican Sen. Joni) Ernst and me,” Grassley vowed.

Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, said she doesn’t trust Perdue.

“We need to have language within the bill that specifically supports ethanol and biodiesel. End of story,” she said.

The Democrats’ coronavirus aid bill, which has already been approved by the House, which they control, includes direct aid for biofuel producers.

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