U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell unveiled his coronavirus economic relief package on July 27 including $20 billion in relief to be used by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in addition to the $14 billion in funding the previously enacted CARES Act provides USDA via the Commodity Credit Corporation account. This marks the next step toward supplying much needed assistance to the renewable fuels sector. American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) CEO Brian Jennings believes ethanol producers, considered “processors” under any commonsense definition of the term, would be prime candidates to receive a portion of USDA’s increased discretionary funds in this proposal. While Jennings welcomed the inclusion of the assistance, he urged for more specific language in the following reaction:
“We are grateful Senate leaders have responded to our request for economic relief to biofuel producers in the phase four stimulus, however, Congress gave USDA the flexibility to provide relief for renewable fuel producers in the last package and USDA declined to exercise it. While Senator McConnell’s bill is more specific about processors of ag commodities, it still leaves discretion to USDA which has so far failed to use the authority to support our industry.
“As I stated in my recent letter to Senators McConnell and Schumer, direct aid for biofuel producers is long overdue. That is why we support and urged inclusion of the Grassley-Klobuchar bill which makes direct assistance certain. Ethanol producers have acted as an economic bridge for U.S. farmers when they purchased corn before the extent of the pandemic was known. It is only fair to aid the ethanol industry which has fronted cash to farm economies.
“We will continue to urge for more specific language in the final bill. Fortunately, momentum appears to be in our favor since both the House-passed Heroes Act and Senate proposal contain relief provisions. Now we need to ensure the legislative details are correct as there should be no reason direct assistance for ethanol producers doesn’t make it in the final phase four bill.
“ACE urges grassroots advocates to contact their lawmakers and ask them to include biofuel producer relief in the final coronavirus relief package and to get it done before the August recess.”