Has Trump lost Sioux County?

A northwest wind bent the corn along the D-15 blacktop in Sac County on a recent Friday when snow spat and warnings of a hard freeze were in the air.

“Just what we need,” you think, wondering if that corn was close to ready. 

It has been a year of uncertainty.

Could we plant corn this year with the spring floods? Will there be time? Nobody has any notion of how big the crop will be. The weather is bad enough. It’s raining again today.

And then you throw the Trump administration on top of it.

The administration broke a promise it made to the renewable fuels industry to follow the law and apportion 15 billion gallons of ethanol to be blended into gasoline annually. Earlier, the Iowa Corn Growers said they were “fed up” with Trump for not supporting ethanol blending requirements. Senators Grassley and Ernst were all worked up. So Trump promised to make everything right.

But he didn’t.

The Environmental Protection Agency came up with rules that short-change by about 30 percent the deal farmers thought they had. 

The renewable fuels industry again registered its outrage. 

This time there has been no response from the administration, which simultaneously is taking flak from Republican ranks for abandoning the Kurds in Syria.

It left Sen. Ernst to tell the folks back home in a town hall that Trump really is the friend of the farmer.

The farmers invested in ethanol production in northwest Iowa don’t necessarily believe her. The Sioux City Journal surveyed ethanol managers from Galva to Sioux Center, and they are all distressed with the confusing politics.

Some are on “hot idle,” with employees in place distilling nothing, others outright shut down, and yet others like Galva on reduced output trying to work through an oversupply.

The Journal reported what the Washington Post and Des Moines Register heard in recent weeks: The folks in Sioux County just might not vote for Trump. 

The board members at the ethanol plant say they will not. They are completely frustrated. At Marcus, too. Farmer-owners are disappointed that they will have to sell their corn elsewhere. Cattle feeders are wondering what price they will have to pay if the ethanol plant no longer is producing dry distillers grain, a valuable feed.

There is a lot of disagreement about the environmental benefits of corn-based ethanol or biodiesel. But there is almost no question that renewable fuels play a crucial role in our national energy security.

Because of ethanol and fracking, the United States is now a net exporter of oil. We don’t need Saudi Arabia and Venezuela anymore. It helps keep fuel prices low, too low for the corn grower or ethanol maker because of increased fuel production and shrinking export markets.

In these uncertain times, when we are sending soldiers to Saudi Arabia to defend a despot prince, we should be propping up alternative fuels. 

Trump couldn’t care less.

Farmers are also uncertain at this point if they will get the second half of their Trump Bump check — designed to buy rural support in the face of an escalating trade war with China. 

That makes for difficult conversations with the lender, to not know where you stand. China has all but abandoned American soy purchases, shaving prices by a third.

Trump claims the Chinese will buy $40 billion worth of U.S. ag products. The Chinese say otherwise.

It’s a terrible day when you have to take the word of the Chinese over that of your own president who you can trust as far as you can throw him. He has destroyed our Asian ag markets almost single-handedly and has nothing to show for his foolish aggression.

Ernst makes herself look foolish calling Trump a friend of the farmer after he betrayed her a second time. Friends don’t pull the rug out from under you when you are down. 

She endangers her own political security by standing with a liar who is undermining the Iowa economy directly. 

Eventually, she may be forced to support Trump in a Senate impeachment trial. 

If she does continue to support him, any one of four Democrats lined up against her will win.

She needs to figure it out as the boys in Sioux County have.

Art Cullen is the Pulitzer Prize-winning editor of The Storm Lake Times.

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