The latest resignation of a Trump administration official was good news in farm country.
Scott Pruitt, Environmental Protection Agency chief until he stepped down this week, understandably drew the ire of farmers in Kansas and beyond with his attack on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a federal mandate that requires ethanol and biodiesel to be blended into the nation's fuel supply.
Pruitt led deliberate efforts to undermine ethanol as the EPA granted an unprecedented 1.6 billion gallons in waivers aiding oil producers. Many oil refineries were exempted from complying with the RFS, to include some making huge profits that received the equivalent of a massive government handout through the waivers.
The moves hurt farmers who grow corn and other grains used in ethanol production, with an estimated economic impact of billions of dollars in lost markets for ethanol and corn.
Pruitt also was embroiled in various ethics-related scandals. Numerous federal and congressional investigations eventually were his undoing.
But in Kansas and other farm states, his biggest transgression by far was his run on ethanol and the RFS.
Meanwhile, President Trump remained oblivious to the harm done in rural parts of the country where he enjoyed enthusiastic voter support. On Twitter, Trump said in part after Pruitt’s resignation: “Within the Agency Scott has done an outstanding job …”
The current plight of farmers apparently doesn’t matter to a president busy exacting his own economic toll on rural America with an escalating trade war.
Trump went on to tweet: “We have made tremendous progress and the future of the EPA is very bright!”
Not if the agency lands another failed administrator, a point addressed by one staunch conservative in the U.S. Senate.
Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, the nation’s top ethanol and biodiesel producer, said Pruitt "is about as swampy as you get here in Washington, D.C., and if the president wants to drain the swamp, he needs to take a look at his own cabinet."
Ideally, the next EPA director would be more mindful of sound policies tied to agriculture and its part in producing clean renewable fuels. But considering the Trump administration’s track record, there’s scant hope of as much.