As Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz prepares to launch a bus tour of Iowa next week, one influential state organization is working to ensure the U.S. senator from Texas isn't welcomed in the state's cornfields.
In its final candidate scorecard before Iowa kicks off the 2016 presidential race with its Feb. 1 caucuses, America's Renewable Future, an ethanol-advocacy group, reserved its harshest words for Cruz, describing the Republican who is leading Iowa's polls as a threat to the corn-based alternative fuel that has been a boon the state's economy.
“Ted Cruz is dangerous to Iowa and thousands of Iowa jobs,” Eric Branstad, the group's leader and the son of Iowa's Republican governor, Terry Branstad, said in a statement. Referring to the Renewable Fuels Standard, a federal mandate on the amount of ethanol required in gasoline, the statement continued: “Our economy depends on a strong RFS, and Iowans count on $5 billion in wages thanks to it. Ted Cruz wants to kill their jobs, and we are going to make sure every Iowan knows that.”
Cruz was one of only two candidates rated “bad” by the group. The other was U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has said he considers federal support for biofuels a form of corporate welfare. A bad rating was given to candidates who “stood against Iowa farmers and the RFS.”
All other Republican candidates, and all three Democratic contenders, got a good rating. That went to those who “demonstrated consistent support for the RFS and Iowa farmers,” according to the group, which boasts 17 field staffers working throughout the state.
Cruz has been the beneficiary of significant campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, which has opposed ethanol's expansion. He has co-sponsored legislation that would repeal the Renewable Fuels Standard, the bedrock of government support for the industry. Earlier this year, Cruz touted his stance on the issue as proof that he won't pander to those in early-voting states.
Government support for biofuels has declined in recent years, with tax credits and pro-industry tariffs allowed to lapse as the industry has expanded.
Still, Iowa corn farmers rely on the fuel more than ever to help them cope: farm profits this year are expected to be the lowest since 2002. The state's 43 ethanol plants produced just over 4 billion gallons this year, up slightly from 3.9 billion last year. That's a new record for the biggest U.S. biofuel-producing state, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association said this week.
Earlier this month, the latest Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register poll showed that the RFS is supported by 61 percent of those planning to participate as Republicans in the Iowa caucuses.