Grassley seeks $3 billion for ethanol interests

Ethanol production has been cut in half during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley is lobbying Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to allocate at least $3 billion to ethanol interests from a $20 billion pot for agriculture proposed by the Senate.

The money would come from the latest stimulus proposal in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, should it clear Congress and be signed by President Trump. Perdue would decide how the money would be spent, Grassley said.

Grassley told the Iowa Farmers Union in a Zoom meeting Tuesday that he spoke with Perdue this week about the issue. Perdue said he would consider it, Grassley said, but feared similar requests from other ag sectors such as those who process corn and soybeans for other products.

“We are hearing every day from ethanol people that they are having a tough time and we aren’t hearing from those other people,” Grassley told the Farmers Union.

Grassley said the administration plans to buy $3 billion in oil for the strategic reserve at $40 a barrel, instead of the $100-plus it used to be. While that might save the country money, he said he’d also like to see support for ethanol in that same $3 billion range. 

Grassley also has been working with Iowa colleague Sen. Joni Ernst, a fellow Republican, and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, to increase support for ethanol. The trio has been working with Sen. Tommy Duckworth of Illinois, another Democrat, to fight the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s consideration of 52 exemptions that would allow small refineries to bypass ethanol-blending requirements. 

Perry Beeman
Senior reporter Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.