Presidential Hopefuls Address ‘Elephant in the Room’ at Iowa Ag Summit

March 9, 2015

All eyes were on Iowa this weekend for the Iowa Agriculture Summit, with speculation flying around whether presidential hopefuls would bow to the pressure of Big Ethanol by supporting the continuation of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a policy that mandates the blending of biofuels like corn ethanol into the U.S. gasoline supply. In a state where it’s often joked that there’s more corn than people, the RFS is touted as a boon for the local economy—despite the fact that the policy is behind rising food prices for consumers nationwide and widespread environmental damage. Year after year presidential hopefuls journey to the Hawkeye State to kiss King Corn’s ring, kowtowing to Iowa’s outsized influence as an early primary state, even when it means pandering to special interests and wavering from their fundamental values.

Thankfully, as the unintended consequences of the RFS become increasingly undeniable, this year saw a shift in discourse, with several candidates venturing to express various levels of concern about the wisdom of the RFS, despite likely Iowan ire. While Senator Ted Cruz unflinchingly took a principled stance by saying he doesn’t support Washington dictating this policy, Governors Jeb Bush and Scott Walker tip-toed around the elephant in the room by supporting an eventual phasing out of the misguided mandate.

Is this an indicator that we are moving closer to RFS reform and elimination of the corn ethanol mandate? Perhaps. It certainly appears that the RFS is no longer holding potential GOP presidential candidates hostage.

This issue, however, is not a partisan one. The ramifications of this broken policy impact us all and we must hold all policymakers, not just conservatives, to account for their principles in the face of RFS boosterism. While conservatives may be principally concerned with free-market meddling, all of those who wish to hold higher office ought take issue with the harm the RFS does to the environment, the pressure it puts on working families trying to stretch a dollar in the grocery aisle and its adverse effects on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable populations.

Right or left, liberal or conservative, it makes no difference when it comes to the RFS. If candidates cannot stay true to their core values in the face of a small special interest group, how can we trust them to stick by their beliefs when faced with true tests of the American presidency?

Tell the presidential hopefuls to take a principled stance against the RFS and corn ethanol mandates.