While President Trump hosted a meeting in the White House to discuss the renewable fuels standard (RFS) on Tuesday, Bill Northey was confirmed to his post at USDA. Despite his confirmation, Republican Senators in the meeting say there’s still no deal on RFS reform.
“No deal on the RFS reform was reached at the White House today,” Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley said. “Neither were assurances or commitments made.”
The Senate confirmed Northey by voice vote to be undersecretary of agriculture for farm and foreign agriculture services, Jim Wiesemeyer explained on AgriTalk Tuesday morning.
“That marks the end of the lengthy hold on his nomination by Senator Ted Cruz who as we speak is likely in the White House at an RFS confab meeting along with Senators Ernst and Grassley from Iowa and Patrick Toomey from Pennsylvania,” he said. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue was also at the meeting.
Given the timing of the confirmation and the White House meeting, some industry experts speculated Northey’s confirmation was tied to a deal with Cruz. During a Tuesday afternoon press conference, Earnst and Grassley assured reporters Northey’s confirmation was not used as a bargaining chip for Cruz to get the changes he’s seeking in the RFS.
“Northey’s confirmation was separate from the RFS issue,” Ernst said. “Cruz of his own accord went ahead and allowed that unanimous consent to go through today.”
According to Wiesemeyer, initially Cruz said he was putting a hold until he got a meeting at the White House. Ernst says the same group of people met in her office in December and the discussion then, was the same as the discussion today.
“There is no different outcome from this meeting,” she said.
Grassley says he and Ernst made it clear in the White House meeting that a cap or waiver on renewable identification numbers (RINs) would not be a “win, win.”
“A true win, win would be to make E15 available year round,” he said.
Neither Senator expects negotiations with Cruz to come to a close with ease. Instead, Grassley expects a fight.
“I wouldn’t expect Sen. Cruz to back off on any position he has, on any subject,” he said.
This discussion began as the result of an ethanol refinery in Pennsylvania declaring bankruptcy and blaming the cost of RINs for their financial turmoil. While the White House has said they have made no decision on any of the proposed changes to the RFS, they plan to hold a meeting with stakeholders in the biofuels industry to better understand the problem. Ernst hopes that meeting will happen this week.
Meanwhile, Secretary Sonny Perdue is expected to speak at the Commodity Classic tomorrow.