American biofuel sector may have to rely on U.S. agriculture secretary for relief — senator

Reuters – The U.S. biofuel industry may have to depend on U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue for aid assistance, Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa said August 4 after Senate Republicans unveiled a COVID-19 relief package that did not include more specific appropriations for the industry.

A provision of the US$1-trillion HEALS Act, introduced by Senate Republicans in late July, would make available US$20 million to Perdue to provide support for American agricultural producers, growers and processors impacted by the pandemic. The bill, however, does not designate the funds more specifically.

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“We’re in a position of depending on the secretary of agriculture, if this (US)$20 billion goes to him, getting some of it for ethanol,” Grassley said.

More than half of the ethanol industry’s production capacity shuttered after lockdown orders tanked fuel demand this spring. Under U.S. law, biofuels, which can be made from crops like corn and soybeans, must be added to the nation’s fuel mix.

The slowdown in the U.S. economy hit biofuel producers and farmers alike, raising calls across the Farm Belt for government relief.

Grassley added that he spoke to Vice-President Mike Pence and Perdue separately over the last week about relief for the biofuels industry.

Biofuel groups expressed concern about the lack of specificity in the bill’s language.

“While Senator (Mitch) McConnell’s bill is more specific about processors of ag commodities, it still leaves discretion to USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture), which has so far failed to use the authority to support our industry,” said Brian Jennings, chief executive of the American Coalition for Ethanol.

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