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POLICY WATCH

Fischer Introduces Updated Year-Round E-15 Bill

This week, Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer introduced the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act of 2022. The legislation would allow the year-round, nationwide sale of ethanol blends higher than 10%. Increasing the availability of biofuels like E15 would benefit the economy and the environment. This federal legislation would also end years of regulatory uncertainty and prevent a patchwork of uneven state regulations. Importantly, the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act of 2022 has support from an unprecedented mix of stakeholders, including Farm Bureau, Renewable Fuels of America, Growth Energy, and the American Petroleum Institute.

“Nebraska’s ethanol industry is a key component of our state’s agricultural and overall economies. Allowing for the nationwide sale of E-15 year-round is long overdue. The Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act forces common sense regulatory changes that will allow American consumers the opportunity to purchase higher blends of ethanol at any time during the year. Sen. Fischer’s steadfast leadership on this issue, one which is so vital to the future growth of the ethanol industry, brought both the ethanol and petroleum industries together in support of this legislation. It is because of her long-time support and determination we are hopeful the Consumer Fuel and Retailer Choice Act finally becomes law,” said Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation President Mark McHargue.

Additional cosponsors of the bill include U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.).

Nebraska Farm Bureau Outlines Key Broadband Challenge Process

Following the Nebraska Farm Bureau backed passage of the federal infrastructure package in 2021, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began working on a framework to allocate money to unserved and underserved broadband coverage areas of the country.

For federal dollars to be appropriately allocated to each state’s unserved and underserved areas by June 2023, the FCC first needed to map out which locations lack the services required. On Friday, November 18, the FCC released this map, allowing everyone to enter their address and view the availability of broadband to that location. If the information shown at any address on that map is incorrect, there is an eight-week window for Nebraskans to alert the FCC of that mistake through a challenge process. All challenges to that map must be received before January 13, 2023.

The FCC has released this video showing how to use the map and how to submit a challenge should some or all the information be incorrect. It is imperative that as many Nebraskans as possible do what they can to ensure the accuracy of this map, if Nebraska is to receive the maximum allocation of broadband funds for areas in our state that are either unserved or underserved.

We encourage all members to take the time to watch the short video, review the map for accuracy, and submit a challenge if needed.

NEFB Asks Congressional Delegation to Support Rail Deal

After weeks of negotiations and threats of a rail worker strike, Congress took the rare action of moving legislation forward to essentially force both sides to accept the agreement which was tentatively reached several months ago. Last week the two largest freight rail unions split their votes on agreeing to a contract. Out of the 12 unions, eight unions (representing ~45% of rail workers) have ratified the agreement, while four (representing ~55% of workers) rejected it. After the votes of last week, the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS) announced that they would extend their cooling off period to match up with the other unions. Now all of the “cooling off” periods expire at 12:01 AM on December 9. The earliest a strike could occur now is December 9, but we know that the railroads will begin suspending operations earlier to secure certain cargoes including some products important to farmers and ranchers such as fertilizer. As Congress looked to consider the deal, Nebraska Farm Bureau sent a letter to all five members of Nebraska’s Congressional Delegation asking them to support passage of the “Tentative Agreement.” “As you know, a rail stoppage would immediately lead to supply shortages and higher prices for consumers. For farmers and ranchers, shipments of grain to international ports, fertilizer, and feed for livestock are just a few examples of what won’t be moving if a rail strike were to occur. This potential loss of over 6,300 railcar loads per day would have dire economic, trade, and even animal welfare consequences if Congress fails to act. In short, no one wins if U.S. trains quit moving,” Nebraska Farm Bureau President Mark McHargue said. Ultimately, Congress passed the agreement through the House on Wednesday and the Senate on Thursday.

EPA Releases RFS Targets

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a multi-part proposal that requests public input on required volumes of biofuel for the next one to three years.  EPA is also proposing new regulations governing the generation of qualifying renewable electricity made from renewable biomass that is used for transportation fuel in electric vehicles. The Clean Air Act requires EPA to set annual RFS volumes of biofuels that must be used for transportation fuel for four categories of biofuels: total, advanced, cellulosic, and biomass-based diesel. EPA implements the RFS program in consultation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Department of Energy. This proposal includes steady growth of biofuels for use in the nation’s fuel supply for 2023, 2024, and 2025. Because the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) does not include volumes after 2022, this is the first time that EPA is setting these proposed biofuel volume targets without using those outlined in statute. EPA is also proposing new regulations governing the generation of qualifying renewable electricity made from renewable biomass that is used for transportation fuel in electric vehicles. The agency is seeking comment on this new component of the RFS program that would tie electricity generation from renewable biomass into the program for the first time. EPA will be soliciting public comment on the proposed rule and holding a public hearing in January.

“AFBF applauds EPA’s proposed increases in renewable volumes under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Long-term stability and a clear indication of obligations for the next three years is welcomed along with the potential of additional producers participating under the RFS. Renewable fuels have been a tremendous success story for the country and our rural economy. The RFS has reduced America’s dependence on foreign crude oil, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, increased farm incomes and provided good-paying jobs in rural America. We look forward to thoroughly reviewing EPA’s proposal,” American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said.

Mexico Announces Possible Flexibility in GMO Corn Ban

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack recently sat down with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to discuss a variety of issues including Mexico’s announced ban on the importation of GMO corn. The import ban is currently set to go into effect in January 2024. During the meeting with Secretary Vilsack, President Obrador indicated Mexico’s willingness to make a deal annually to exempt GMO U.S. feed corn from the ban, but no deal on GMO white corn direct for human consumption would be part of that deal.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall commented on the meeting saying, “The United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement is important for America’s farm economy, making Secretary Vilsack’s meeting with President Obrador of Mexico critically important. America’s farmers are deeply concerned with President Obrador’s decree to phase out the importation of biotech corn and agriculture products. This import ban will only hurt the people of Mexico, and America’s farmers, who are dedicated to growing safe and affordable food for families on both sides of the border. Proven advances in technology allow farmers to meet demands while achieving important sustainability goals. We appreciate Secretary Vilsack for standing firm in support of American agriculture and we encourage him to continue pressing for fair trade between the U.S. and Mexico.”

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