Galva, Illinois population change

Big River Resources ethanol plant in Galva. Across the Rust Belt, thousands of rural towns are shrinking. The linchpins of the rural economy — agriculture and manufacturing — are employing fewer workers than they were a generation ago.

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CEDAR RAPIDS — President Donald Trump has been receiving praise from farm state Republicans for his decision to deny the “gap year” waivers and increase access to E15 corn-based ethanol. But it also was panned by Democrats Wednesday as nothing more than a political ploy.

“What the administration has done is really an insult,” said Michigan U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, ranking Democrat on the Agriculture Committee. “It would be welcome news if it was at the beginning of a Trump presidency. But already the damage has been done.

“So our farmers are hurting and they need more than just some lip service right before the election,” Stabenow said Wednesday on a call organized by Biden for President.

Trump has failed to deliver on the promises he made to Midwestern farmers four years ago — better trade deals, investments in rural infrastructure and support for the renewable fuel industry, added former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack.

“The reality three and a half years later, as we approach the election, is that President Trump has failed to keep any of these promises,” said Vilsack, who served as President Barack Obama’s U.S. Department of Agriculture secretary for eight years and now leads the U.S. Dairy Export Council.

“Now at this late date he becomes a Johnny-come-lately to the third promise of supporting the RFS.”

Trump and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency denied waivers petroleum refiners had sought retroactively, some as far back as 2011, that would have allowed the petroleum industry to remove hundreds of millions of gallons of corn-based ethanol from the market and sidestep a congressional requirement of blending at least 15 billion gallons of ethanol a year into the nations fuel supply.

The president’s action is a big deal, according to Iowa’s two Republican U.S. senators who had lobbied the president to deny the waivers and remove outdated restrictions on the year-round sale of E15.

“I applaud President Trump for keeping his word and supporting our farmers and biofuel producers,” Sen. Chuck Grassley said. “This is an important step that will allow more gas stations to provide E15 to Iowans year-round without significantly changing their infrastructure.”

Sen. Joni Ernst said the Trump administration listened to the call for action from her, Grassley and other supporters of the RFS.

The president’s move will provide more certainty to biofuel producers “who have for too long been yanked around by the EPA,” Ernst said.

Ernst on Wednesday received the “Fueling Growth” award for the sixth consecutive year from Growth Energy, a trade association, for her support of biofuels.

Her Democratic challenger, Theresa Greenfield, said the president’s decisions “does nothing to erase the damage Sen. Ernst did by voting for a fossil fuel lobbyist to run the EPA. Unlike Ernst, I’ll always put our farmers first, not Big Oil donors.”

This article originally ran on qctimes.com.

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