My family has been farming in Dane County for 120 years, and I’m proud to run our century farm. We started as dairy farmers and then transitioned to raising steer feeders and growing grain that includes corn, soybeans, and wheat. Most of the grain I sell goes to ethanol plants.

It’s not yet clear how quickly Wisconsin’s ethanol industry will rebound after COVID-19 brought our economy to a halt. At one point, half the industry was offline, disrupting the entire farm supply chain. That’s especially concerning in Wisconsin, the nation’s eighth-largest biofuels producer, where the industry supports 30,000 people.

From family-run farms to ethanol plants, the economic activity generated fuels local economies.

Unfortunately, there may be more trouble ahead due to small refinery exemptions. These waivers quadrupled under this administration. They allow oil companies to skirt the law and push ethanol blends out of the market.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled against the exemptions earlier this year, calling them an illegal “abuse of discretion.” But instead of applying that ruling nationwide, the Environmental Protection Agency recently confirmed that it’s considering 52 retroactive exemptions – designed solely to circumvent that decision. Exemptions have already resulted in over four billion gallons of lost ethanol demand, and any additional waivers would only add to our challenges.

When the biofuels industry struggles, all rural growth takes a hit. We need the administration to uphold its promise to support ethanol and the jobs that come with it — before it’s too late.

Mike Duerst

Town of Verona