Agricultural community reacts to Trump's announcement of year-round E15 sales

AURORA, Neb. (KSNB) - Local ethanol plants and farmers are looking to benefit from more E15 production after the Trump administration lifted a federal ban on summer sales.

Trump announced the administration's decision to lift the ban Tuesday night at a rally in Iowa.

Managers at Pacific Ethanol Aurora said year-round use of E15 will help them to expand production and meet more demands for ethanol.

"With our plants, we have the capacity right now to make what they're asking for," said Adam Neville, operations manager at Pacific Ethanol. "With the markets, plants speed up slow down. So the capacity is there, and this will just give us the capacity to go faster and meet the demand."

The EPA placed a federal ban on E15 sales from May through September 15 due to concerns that the blend might cause smog on hot days. They approved E15 use in all vehicles from 2001 and up.

Officials with the ethanol plant said the local economy will benefit from the sale of a cleaner and cheaper burning fuel.

"This is a rural area, and farming intensive area. Adding E15 to the mix is another 7 billion gallons of ethanol that we can produce for domestic use, which equates to another 2.5 billion bushels of corn demand," said Ryan Sherwood, vice president of grain merchandising at Aurora Cooperative. "For the ethanol industry to be strong, that certainly supports rural America as well too. And then the communities that supplies the ethanol plants with the corn and selling the ethanol, it's such a trickle down effect to even the smallest communities in Nebraska."

Local farmers said they are ready to meet that demand. One farmer from Giltner has been farming with his family for 20 years. They harvest corn for several local ethanol plants.

"We're entering some rough times," said Brandon Hunnicutt. "Not just for corn production, but there's also some storage out there, some ethanol plants that are having some issues. So if we can bring that demand up it helps the ethanol plants, it helps the small towns, whether it's in Aurora or Hastings or some of the other towns that have ethanol plants.

Hunnicutt said the removal of the ban is a step forward for the agricultural community. He said he hopes to see the Trump administration move forward with this promise.

"The president has said a lot of things that he's going to do that has not always been beneficial to the farmer. We've seen that. But this is one of those things that he's looked at. It's taken a long time. We've had a lot of discussions. I think this is a step in the right direction. Now we've got E15. Now the next step is let's move and get the farm bill done, and make sure we have good trade policy," Hunnicutt said.

Officials said they hope the lifted ban will help balance out the supply and demand for ethanol.

The Nebraska Corn Board will be working with the Trump Administration and the EPA to ensure the ban is lifted for summer 2019.