Agriculture is South Dakota's number one industry – by a significant margin. All in all, it contributes about $25.6 billion to the economy, so when ag booms, South Dakota booms. Of course, when droughts hit or markets slide, everyone feels that too.

In recent years, farm incomes have collapsed, in part because of natural disasters and in part because prices have been suppressed by foreign buyers. This administration set out to rebalance our trade relationships. For example, the European Union announced its willingness to join the U.S. in new trade talks, and Canada and Mexico have come to the negotiating table and helped us produce a better, fairer deal for American agriculture. 

China took a different path, retaliating harshly against our farmers and ranchers. This retaliation greatly concerns me, and I’ve talked with farmers and ranchers across South Dakota about its impact. Recent news reports, however, suggest China’s finances have taken a hit from trade disputes, causing the Chinese government to implement extraordinary measures to shore up its economy.

Nonetheless, their retaliation has hit American producers. In response, the U.S. Agriculture Department offered up a $12 billion aid package. But farmers don't want aid; we want market access. As Scott VanderWal, President of the South Dakota Farm Bureau explained: “The best way out of the current poor ag economy is to find new markets and expand existing ones.”

This October, President Trump took a major step forward in opening up an existing market that's not been fully tapped into. More specifically, his administration took an action that previous administrations were unwilling to take, approving year-round E15, a move that will help consume another 2 billion bushels of corn, while potentially saving consumers up to 10 cents per gallon at the pump.

Under the president's direction, the Environmental Protection Agency will begin the rule-making process, allowing for 15 percent ethanol blends to be used throughout the year, which is currently prohibited unnecessarily. Jeff Broin, the CEO of POET, a Sioux Falls-based ethanol producer, called the move "a historic directive - not only for producers, but for the nation as a whole." I agree.

Over the last year, I've been putting tremendous pressure on the administration to make this move. President Trump and I have had many conversations about year-round E15. He knows where I stand, and that I wouldn't give up on this issue until we made it right for farmers in South Dakota – as well as consumers who are demanding more affordable, homegrown fuels. 

That work is now beginning to pay off. We're getting results and earning "an opportunity to supply more of our nation's fuel supply," as Lisa Richardson, Executive Director of South Dakota Corn explained. Simply put, South Dakota can revolutionize the way we fuel both our vehicles and our economy – we just need the opportunity to do so.

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