Biofuel, Agriculture Advocates Ask Congress for COVID-19 Aid

A group of advocacy organizations representing the biofuel and agricultural industries wrote to Congressional leadership Monday, requesting that “the next round of COVID-19 relief does not overlook U.S. ethanol and biodiesel production.” A press release explained that its calls echoed those made by other members of Congress.

The letter, sent to the leadership of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, described the situation as “dire.” It added that “More than 130biofuel plants have already partially or fully shut down as motor fuel demand plunged to 50-year lows. America’s biofuel plants purchase annually more than one-third of U.S. corn and U.S. soybean oil, and the loss of those markets has depressed farm income and will continue to push corn and soybean prices down dramatically.”

Other significant secondary effects were highlighted by the letter, which said that ethanol plants supply carbon dioxide to the food industry, and are unable to do so due to reduced demand. Similarly, biodiesel plants demand soybean oil, distillers corn oil, and animal fats to operate; this demand is reduced according to the letter.

The letter went on to explain specific relief proposals. “While some facilities are eligible for CARES Act loan programs, the Act did not include specific relief for biofuel producers, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) subsequent disbursement of Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) funds excluded the biofuel sector.”

“It is vital that the next COVID-19 relief package include immediate, temporary, and direct assistance to help the U.S. biofuel industry retain its skilled workforce and mitigate the impact of plant closures on the food and feed supply chain and rural communities,” the letter implored. “There are numerous mechanisms overseen by the USDA that could quickly facilitate direct assistance to the biofuel industry.”

The letter was signed by the Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy, the National Biodiesel Board, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Corn Growers Association, the American Soybean Association, the National Farmers Union, the National Oilseed Processors Association, the National Renderers Association, the National Sorghum Producers, and Fuels America.

The letter echoes other requests for relief in further COVID-19 aid. A recently introduced bill would provide aid to the cannabis industry, while broadcasters requested that they be considered small businesses under the existing relief programs.