At Tuesday's Farmfest Congressional Candidates' Forum on Agriculture and Rural Issues near Morton, six panelists gave their views on the Renewable Fuel Standard.
Some members of Congress are currently pushing for EPA to adjust the Renewable Fuels Standard that requires fuel blenders to mix 13.2 billion gallons of ethanol into gasoline this year. The mandate rises steadily until peaking at 15 billion gallons per year in 2015 and holding that level through 2022.
Participating in the Farmfest panel were Collin Peterson (D-7th district); Lee Byberg (R, 7th district candidate); Tim Walz (D-1st district); Mike Parry (R, 1st district candidate); Alan Quist (R, 1st district candidate) and Mike Obermueller (D, 2nd district candidate).
"The long term solution to energy needs is in the free market," Parry said. He noted that other energy sources in early growth stages have benefited from subsidies and tax payers.
"The RFS has played a vital role in American agriculture and I'm supportive of that. Yet, it needs to be flexible in the next 12 months, and it depends on the crop report (this Friday). If corn yield is estimated to be 135 bushels per acre, that's one thing, but if it's 120, that's very different."
Walz said he agreed with Quist. "I support RFS. Energy is the future and we need to look at everything available."
Peterson concurred, too. "I support RFS and agree it depends on the crop report. I caution, though, that we all need to work together. We can't let RFS divide us. We need livestock and we need ethanol."
Byberg said that all industries are needed. "We need an energy plan with incentives," he said. "That's how America works—with incentives."
Obermueller reiterated Peter's comments about farmers working together.
"I support RFS," he said. "Collin hit the nail on the head. We need to figure it out and speak with a united voice."
Regarding the Farm Bill, a few panel members had the opportunity to address the question posed that asked if they wanted a bill approved now.
"The only thing stopping us now from passing it is politics," said Walz. "Absolutely, we need to pass it. Producers wrote it. It makes sense to give you the stability with crop insurance."
"I agree, we need to bring the Farm Bill to the floor," said Perry. "I am concerned with the dairy supply issues. Farmers need to take some risk but we do need some protection."
Quist said the Farm Bill needs language clarified.
"This is no Farm Bill," he said. "It's 80% funding for food stamps. So anyone who votes for it is voting for the food stamp portion and that's broken. It's not okay to pass it as it is."