Open Letter to Sen. Ted Cruz from IRFA & Iowa Corn

Open Letter to Sen. Ted Cruz

August 27, 2021

Senator Cruz:

Welcome back to Iowa. When you last spent a great deal of time in Iowa about five years ago, you conducted a 28-county bus tour across Iowa. At each and every stop, Iowa farmers questioned you about your stance on ethanol and the Renewable Fuels Standard. It was clear there was a level of concern.

All these years later we can’t help but note that your opposition to the RFS remains. After all, you signed a letter just days before coming to Iowa urging the EPA to retroactively lower the RFS levels for 2020, ignoring that the law automatically adjusts for unexpected changes in fuel demand, such as was brought on by COVID-19.

But as you return to Iowa, we hope that your previous commitment to “more market access for ethanol” will return as well. Excuse us if we don’t just take your “word” for it this time. We urge you to take concrete action. Cosponsor the Sen. Chuck Grassley legislation that restores year-round market access for E15. Let retailers, not Washington, decide whether or not to offer the fuel. Let consumers, not Washington, decide whether or not to buy the fuel. And then publicly work to get the fix into the infrastructure package or any other legislation that is moving. In short, Sen. Cruz you have an opportunity to keep your word to Iowans. We will be watching.

To your credit, five years ago you were open and honest about your opposition to the single most important piece of biofuel, and some would argue agricultural, policy ever passed –the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). Signed into law by then-President George W. Bush, the RFS created market opportunities for farmers not seen since the 1970s and unleased a historic string of 8 straight years of record farm income. You called for phasing out the RFS. We will continue to agree to disagree.

But an interesting thing happened following that bus tour. You launched an all-out messaging offensive that you supported ethanol and consumer access to ethanol blends, just not the RFS. In fact, you launched this effort with an op-ed in the Des Moines Register entitled: “Cruz: I’m fighting for farmers to get more market access for ethanol.”

You spent the remaining weeks of the 2016 Iowa Caucus campaign furiously working to tell farmers that you would work to open up new, higher blend ethanol markets outside of the RFS framework. You stated there were forces “trying to convince Iowans that I oppose ethanol. Their charges are utter nonsense.”

Instead of the RFS, you promised to unleash a new era for higher ethanol blends, noting “market access is critical.” You vowed to strike down EPA regulations that impose “a hard wall against mid-level ethanol blends… making it largely illegal to sell gasoline with higher blends of ethanol.”

You told Iowans that “ethanol is an effective fuel additive because it increases octane and decreases harmful tailpipe emissions. And because ethanol often costs less than other octane additives, ethanol blends can be a win-win for automakers and consumers alike.”

You promised Iowans to “rescind the EPA’s blend wall, allowing ethanol to command a much larger share of the energy market,” noting farmers would benefit “simply by getting Washington out of the way, and allowing Iowa farmers to sell their product on a fair and level playing field.”

To this end, you vowed to Iowa voters: “And, as president, you have my word that is what I will do.”

How long did this commitment last? On one of your first trips to New Hampshire following the Iowa Caucuses, you bragged about overcoming farmer fears, stating: “Everyone knows how to pander. It’s not complicated. It’s not hard to go to Iowa and say ‘I’m for ethanol. Yum yum I love it. I pour it on my breakfast cereal.’”

Maybe you meant to highlight your opposition to the RFS, not ethanol, which you had embraced only days before in Iowa. But while you did not become president, you did return to the US Senate. And looking back five years, it is clear today that your “word” to knock down barriers to higher ethanol blends was forgotten as soon as you left Iowa.

One of your first actions back in the Senate was to hold hostage Iowa’s own Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey’s appointment to a top USDA job unless President Trump would agree to illegally undermine the RFS. While your opposition to the RFS is clear, it was quite frankly unseemly for a “constitutionalist” to try to thwart the proper implementation of a law, passed and signed, through the abuse of the Senate’s “advise and consent” powers. You don’t like the RFS. We get it. Then round up the votes in Congress to modify or repeal it. Don’t try to force a president to ignore his duty to properly and faithfully execute the laws of the land.

Just months later you had to chance to keep your word. Iowa Senator Joni Ernst helped lead an effort to knock down the nonsensical EPA barriers to higher ethanol blends that you so earnestly, and repeatedly, denounced in Iowa. But you did not cosponsor the bipartisan Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act. And as Senator Ernst worked to bring the bill up for a vote in the Environment and Public Works Committee, you rallied with oil state senators to keep that from happening. Your “commitment” to knocking down barriers, creating market access, and letting ethanol compete on a fair and level playing field was utterly forgotten.

Luckily for us, President Trump did as president what you had promised to do. He ordered the EPA to revise the rule that made E15 sales more difficult during summer months. And, as you predicted, both retailers and consumers reacted. Large national chains and small “mom and pop” stations alike worked to add E15, and consumers increasingly chose the lower cost, cleaner burning fuel.

It’s no secret we’ve had our strong disagreements with former President Trump regarding his implementation of the RFS, but his E15 action was truly impactful for ethanol and farmers.

Unfortunately, in a recent, extremely narrow view of agency discretion, a federal court inexplicably ruled that the EPA did not have authority to take this action. Therefore, ethanol and farmers will lose the vital higher blend market starting next June unless a new solution is found.

And the solution is simple – two small words. In the law regulating ethanol, “contains 10 percent ethanol” needs to be changed to “contains 10 percent or more ethanol.” Two words. Six letters. And it would create some of the market access you lauded five years ago.

Sen. Cruz, it’s never too late to do the right thing.


Carl Jardon

Iowa Corn Growers Association

Mike Jerke


Iowa Renewable Fuels Association