Iowa’s two U.S. Senators say today’s White House meeting did nothing to resolve the impasse between corn country and the oil industry over federal ethanol policy.
But Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst say meeting with Texas Senator Ted Cruz and President Trump was a catalyst for getting Cruz to quit blocking senate confirmation of Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey’s nomination for a USDA job. Ernst isn’t sure why Cruz finally relented on that front. “I don’t know what transpired with the Northey hold release,” Ernst told reporters on a conference call after the White House meeting. “That would have to be addressed to the President and Senator Cruz.”
Although Cruz released his hold on Northey, Grassley doesn’t believe the Texas Senator will budge on his opposition to the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). “I wouldn’t expect Senator Cruz to back off on any position he has on any subject,” Grassley said.
Another meeting is planned for Thursday between ethanol producers and small oil refiners. Oil company executives say the federal ethanol production mandate is leading to unemployment in their industry.
Grassley isn’t buying it. “We’ve got one refinery that’s in trouble and driving the whole thing to ruin the ethanol industry is the way I see it,” Grassley said. Cruz has blamed the bankruptcy of the Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) oil refinery on the RFS.
Ernst said there’s been no proof of Cruz’s claims. “There’s one refinery, that we’re aware of, that is struggling and there’s been so much mismanagement with that oil refinery,” Ernst said. “What I asked when we started the meeting in the President’s office is that first we have to define what the problem is, and we haven’t seen what the problem is. You have to have an actual problem to reach a solution. I think they’re just grasping at straws.”
Grassley said there was only one good thing to come out of today’s meeting. “We finally got the hold on Northey raised, so Northey can now be sworn in and get to work helping all farmers across the country, just like he helped Iowa for 12 years,” Grassley said.
The 58-year-old Northey, from Spirit Lake, was first elected as Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture in 2006. It’s unclear when his USDA swearing-in ceremony will be held.
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds will name a new ag secretary to complete Northey’s term, which runs through this year.