John Block: Renewable Fuels

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block

At this time when farmers are suffering with low prices for corn and soybeans, the EPA is making a move that could cut the biodiesel mandate by as much as 315 million gallons. This is not good news for the biodiesel or ethanol businesses. It’s not good news for corn and soybean farmers. We thought the Renewable Fuels Standard and biofuels mandates were all settled for next year, but I guess we were wrong.

Bob Dinneen, President and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, said, “There is no rationale for further lowering either the 2018 advanced biofuel volume requirement or the total renewable fuel volume.”

These suggested changes have the whole ag industry up in arms. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is “on the war path.” He reminds us that President Trump repeatedly offered public support for ethanol producers and the RFS. President Trump told Senator Grassley last month to assure Iowans and the Midwest, that he had their backs on RFS. Iowa Senator Joni Ernst (D-IA) said, “A bio diesel cut would be bad for farmers, American manufacturing, and rural America,” adding, “I hope that the EPA has not forgotten about the pledges that were made to my constituents and to farmers across the country.”

I don’t believe President Trump will allow the EPA to reverse course and undercut the President’s base of support in rural America and especially the Midwest. Renewable fuel production keeps us on the path to energy security, economic growth, and more jobs.

The encouraging development is that there is a very powerful pushback from the whole ag industry.  Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue will not take this EPA “bait and switch” without a fight. We will see what happens.

The biggest issue in the town now is tax reform. I will focus my program on this issue soon. Today, I want to say we need tax reform – not just tax cuts. If we cut taxes, we need to find the money somewhere to run the government. That means loophole closing is the focus. That will not be easy, but it’s necessary.

Finally, let me just say that our thoughts and prayers are with those suffering from the three devastating hurricanes this fall, and the poor families in Las Vegas fired on by one crazy shooter. They came to celebrate and listen to country music and they were shot.

John Block was Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1981-1985, where he played a key role in the development of the 1985 Farm Bill.  If you would like to review his radio shows going back more than 20 years, visit

More From


Subscribe to receive OFW’s Food & Agriculture World Insights Newsletter.