Senators say grants will help preserve jobs and economic development to help farmers, rural communities and agribusinesses thrive

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN) announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will provide over $100 million in competitive grants to expand the availability and sale of renewable fuels. Funding is made available through the USDA’s Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP).

“This funding will help ensure that more Americans will have access to higher blends of biofuels like E15 and E85, which will reduce carbon emissions, save them money at the pump, and boost local economies across Minnesota and the country,” Klobuchar said. “I will continue working to ensure farmers and renewable fuel producers receive our support during these tough times.”  

“As the pandemic causes ethanol prices to drop to record lows, it is critical that the federal government help out farm country. Prior to COVID-19, Minnesota agriculture was facing blows from trade disruptions, low commodity prices and difficult weather," Smith said. “The biofuel industry was already suffering, but expanding higher blend infrastructure now will help the industry get back on its feet when people start driving again. I will continue to work hard to make sure our renewable fuels industry is supported because I want to see jobs and economic development that will help our rural communities, farmers and agribusinesses thrive.”

For application information and other program details, visit the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program web page.

In March, Klobuchar and Smith joined a bipartisan effort with 14 of their Senate colleagues urging President Trump to support the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) as coronavirus pushes ethanol prices to record lows.

For years, Klobuchar has been a leader in the fight to strengthen the RFS to support American jobs and decrease dependence on foreign oil. Klobuchar has led several letters urging the Administration to cease issuing small refinery waivers and reject changes to the RFS that would upend stability and predictability for small businesses and rural communities. In December 2019, Klobuchar led a public comment letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler expressing concern over the proposed supplemental rule establishing the Renewable Fuel Standard’s (RFS) 2020 Renewable Volume Obligations and 2021 Biomass-Based Diesel Volumes. In October 2019, Klobuchar sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue asking the agency to document the impact of small refinery waivers on farm income, commodity prices, and renewable fuel usage. Klobuchar has also led a bipartisan push for the EPA to allow for the year-round sale of E15, including letters to the Administration urging them to expand waivers for the sale of E15 in the summer months. Klobuchar is an original cosponsor of the bipartisan Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act, which would amend the Clean Air Act to allow for the year-round sale of E15.

Senator Smith has long fought for a strong RFS, both in Washington and during her time as Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota. In October 2019, Smith pressed U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Stephen Censky about Trump Administration policies—which have limited the amounts of corn-based ethanol and other renewable fuels that are blended into the nation’s gasoline supply—at a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing. Smith also led a 2019 letter pressing EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to stop abusing oil refinery waivers, pointing out that the granting of waivers had increased by 370 percent compared to the previous administration, with “small refinery” waivers going to large oil companies for the first time. In November of 2019, Senator Smith joined several colleagues in submitting testimony for the Congressional Record calling for an end to waiver abuse. Senator Smith is also a cosponsor of the bipartisan Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act.

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