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Dan Gilmore / Jan. 6, 2016

Cruz's Iowa Success Endangers Corn Lobby

Could the ethanol peddlers' stranglehold be cracking?

Children of the corn?

Could the corn lobby’s stranglehold on political rhetoric be cracking? With just weeks until the Iowa caucuses, presidential candidate Ted Cruz is leading the field, polling at 31%. He’s also an aggressive critic of the ethanol mandate. Known as the Renewable Fuel Standard, the mandate requires a massive amount of ethanol be used in the nation’s gas supply, and it sends a very lucrative stream of money flowing to corn producers. And Iowa is the nation’s largest producer of the stuff. Thus, Cruz’s lead has given the corn lobby a bit of heartburn. As the Washington Examiner’s Timothy Carney wrote, “If Cruz wins Iowa, especially if he wins big, it will confirm that the subsidies and mandates for ethanol are very important only to a sliver of the population (largely the lobbyists and executives of the giant agribusinesses that receive the lion’s share of the benefit). … If the ethanol lobby is a paper tiger, then the federal ethanol mandate is not long for this world.”

At the beginning of this presidential race, we saw the power the corn lobby had. In March, former candidate Scott Walker hired Liz Mair as a communications consultant but fired her hours later after the Iowa GOP machine skewered her because she wrote several tweets disparaging Iowa and how it hamstrung national policy. Reading between the lines, she was clearly referencing subsidies for ethanol. Meanwhile, the great ethanol boondoggle is an inefficient waste of food and natural resources all in the pursuit of corny science.

Update: “The RFS is scheduled to expire in 2022,” Cruz said in Cherokee, Iowa. “When I said we should phase it out, I said it should be a five-year phase out. A phase-out from 2017 to 2022 is a five-year phaseout.”

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