KUNC     Tri States Public Radio

         

Tossed Out

Specialty crop farms, like orchards, rely heavily on migrant labor to hand pick fruit. (Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media)
Specialty crop farms, like orchards, rely heavily on migrant labor to hand pick fruit. (Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media)

In the debate over immigration reform, farm and ranch groups have been among those calling for change the loudest, and most frequently. But after President Obama announced changes to the immigration system, the response from the agriculture industry so far has been mixed.

In an announcement Thursday, Obama detailed how his actions will delay the deportation of the undocumented parents of children in the country legally. The changes also give protections to any children who were brought to this country illegally before 2010. About 5 million people in the country without documentation will be affected.

Out of that 5 million people, upwards of 250,000 work on farms and ranches, according to a release from the United Farm Workers, one of the largest farm worker unions in the country with deep roots in activism. In its reaction, UFW took an optimistic tone.

Ethanol plants, like this one in Adams, Neb., use corn from Midwest farms to pump out millions of gallons of biofuel. (File: Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media)
Ethanol plants, like this one in Adams, Neb., use corn from Midwest farms to pump out millions of gallons of biofuel. (File: Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media)

The Environmental Protection Agency said Friday that it won’t release rules for how much ethanol oil refiners have to mix in to our gasoline supply this year.

The ethanol rules, called the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), are meant to prop up the U.S. biofuels industry by creating demand for ethanol. Without the rules, both oil companies and the biofuel sector will be left in the dark as to what the demand for ethanol will be.

The RFS is also a big deal for Midwest farmers, as ethanol consumption drives demand for the corn they grow and buttresses corn prices. With corn prices plummeting, robust ethanol demand would help farmers’ bottom lines.

The EPA has yet to release rules governing the amount of ethanol in the U.S. gasoline supply (File: Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media)
The EPA has yet to release rules governing the amount of ethanol in the U.S. gasoline supply (File: Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media)

A year ago, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed cutting the amount of ethanol that oil refiners have to mix in to our gas in 2014. 2014 is almost over. No final announcement has been made and there are only rumors about when a final decision may come.

Here’s what we’ve been trying to figure out at Harvest HQ: The final Renewable Fuel Standard, as the rules are called, was submitted to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on Aug. 22. Typically, that’s the last step before a rule like this is finalized.

The OMB can review the proposal for up to 90 days before it’s released. If we’re counting right (and please, someone tell us if we’re not) that 90 days was up Nov. 20. The OMB director can extend the review 30 days. The EPA administrator can delay it indefinitely. Neither has made any indication that has happened. When I called, both the EPA and the OMB refused comment.

Pages