Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa’s Republican senior senator, blasted the Trump administration Friday for EPA biofuel rules that have hurt Iowa farmers. “They screwed us … when they issued 31 waivers,” Grassley told Iowa Public Television Friday. The waivers he’s talking about are waivers to 31 small petroleum refineries who have been exempted from a rule requiring them to use corn-based ethanol in their products. Grassley pointed out that fewer than 10 waivers were granted during “all the Obama years—and we thought that was bad.” Grassley continued, “What’s really bad isn’t a waiver, it’s that it’s being granted to people that really aren’t [in financial] hardship,” while farmers are really hurting, facing a record number of bankruptcies. The “buck stops at the Oval Office,” he said, putting this one on Trump rather than EPA bureaucrats.
He was referring to a Reuters report that Trump told EPA head Andrew Wheeler (the former coal lobbyist) personally to grant the waivers. “The president has heard from all sides and in the end, he has had enough of it. He called Wheeler and gave him the green light,” a source told Reuters. Trump’s EPA has more than quadrupled those waivers, according to Reuters. Some of the refineries that have been granted those waivers are run by oil giants Exxon Mobil and Chevron, corporations that have also done very well by Trump’s tax law. Which Grassley was happy to vote for.
This is the most significant break between Trump and the powerful farm-state senator, who, as the previous chair of the Judiciary Committee helped Trump set records for judicial confirmations. Bankruptcies are fewer in Iowa than in other farm states, but farmers there are still struggling, many of them unable to secure financing this year for operations including buying seed, paying rent, or making payments on their equipment.
Grassley is in a safe place to criticize Trump. But his junior senator, Joni Ernst, is not. She’s running for reelection this year and is already on the wrong side of many voters for refusing to act on gun violence.