Ethanol production has become a key issue in Iowa's closely matched U.S. Senate race, with both candidates pledging support for an industry that is important to the state's corn-powered agricultural economy.
Democrat Bruce Braley and Republican Joni Ernst have both sought to assure voters that they oppose a proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency that would reduce the amount of ethanol and other biofuels that must be blended into gasoline.
Braley is touting his efforts as a congressman to halt the changes, including testifying against the cut at an EPA hearing. Ernst also argues that she supports maintaining the existing standard — known as the Renewable Fuel Standard or RFS — though she has taken questions over statements that she is opposed to subsidies from a "philosophical standpoint."
Recent endorsements in the race show that both candidates are getting some support from farming groups. The Iowa Farm Bureau's political committee endorsed the farm-raised Ernst, while the Iowa Corn Growers Association PAC backed Braley. Both groups cite the RFS as a key issue for members.
Mark Recker, chairman of the Corn Growers PAC, and a corn farmer from Arlington, said Braley's record on ethanol was a key reason for the endorsement. The group also backed Republican Gov. Terry Branstad and a mix of Democrats and Republicans in other races.
"The congressman's work on the renewable fuel standard and ethanol, he's always voted with us," said Recker. "She has been coming around on that issue, she has been. But when we look at the aggregate of the issues, the congressman has been very good on our key issues."
Asked about the endorsement, Ernst said she couldn't speculate on why the group backed Braley.