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Missouri corn growers and ethanol experts are optimistically looking ahead to a Trump administration decision that could pave the way for cleaner air and stronger corn prices for farmers.

Brent Hoerr, who operates a farm along the Mississippi River bottoms and serves as Secretary with the Missouri Corn Growers Association, said that President Trump fulfilled one of his campaign promises with his recent directive to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that applies to gasoline with 15-percent ethanol content, or E15. Current EPA regulations stipulate E15 is not allowed to be sold during the summer, and proponents for the change said past EPA regulations kept filling stations from selling E15 instead of E10 fuel.

Jay Schutte — who farms near Mexico and serves as a board member with the Missouri Corn Grower Association and as chairman of the Ethanol Action Team with the National Corn Growers Association — said though the regulations have been changed, it's been a "tough battle" with big oil companies to achieve year-round sales of the E15-blend of gasoline so far.

Schutte said the oil industry wants to protect its share of petroleum-based fuels, and that is one example of why it is difficult to encourage more widespread sales of E15 fuel. He said ethanol is the cheapest liquid fuel available, at about $1.20 per gallon.

Hoerr said corn growers have conducted studies that prove ethanol is the cheapest form of oxygenator for fuels, which in turn helps the fuel to burn cleaner.

"What [the automakers] want is smaller, high-compression engines, which take a higher octane," Hoerr said, "You can do that with straight petroleum, but it costs a lot more than with ethanol."

In addition to providing a cleaner-burning option, local farmer Tyler Haerr said the federal directive would likely bring about a short-term increase in corn prices as a higher demand for E15 fuel would shift supply and demand curves. In the long-term, he expects corn prices will level off. Hoerr agreed, saying that while international trade discussions directly decreased soybean prices, corn markets were affected, too.

Marion County Farm Bureau President Joe Kendrick said the area infrastructure is still scarce for E15 fuel, as well as E85 fuel, while some neighboring regions, such as portions of Iowa, have established a system for E15 and higher fuel. He expressed optimism about the recent changes, comparing the welcome alteration to the stimulus funds the Trump administration gave farmers during trade negotiations.

"We definitely appreciate anything that happens to try to increase markets and usage," he said.

Schutte said that he looks forward to the chance to work alongside petroleum companies for cleaner air, stronger corn markets and benefits for consumers.

"As a farmer and as an owner in an ethanol plant, we want to be part of the solution," he said.

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