Currently in Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz is attempting to enforce an electric-vehicle mandate that could dictate the sales of these cars, use California’s standards as a guide, limit consumer choice, and adversely impact our farming communities. This mandate could disproportionately hurt Minnesota’s biofuels producers and devastate Minnesota’s agriculture community.
As a Minnesota corn and soybean grower, I am strongly opposed to this policy, which would be extremely detrimental to the agriculture community, a large driver of Minnesota’s economy.
As the fourth-largest ethanol producer in the country, Minnesota supports nearly 19,000 full-time jobs in the industry, generating $1.5 billion of income for households. If California’s discouragement of gas-powered vehicles is adopted in other states, the U.S. net farm income would decrease by an estimated $27 billion, according to an Agricultural Retailers Association study in October 2020.
In a recent letter, the Minnesota Corn Growers Association stated it supports vehicle regulations for air quality and emissions that fairly account for renewable-fuel benefits. Given the information presented by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, it is uncertain at this time if these proposed rules would actually contribute to reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions from biofuels. Research shows that corn ethanol currently produced in Minnesota can reduce emissions by 46% compared to gasoline. Further, Minnesota Corn Growers Association policy opposes the MPCA rulemaking process to enact California vehicle-emissions standards and any rule or law that requires Minnesota to follow another state’s regulations on vehicle emissions and sales.
As the primary goal of this rule is to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, it is uncertain if this forced policy can accomplish its mission. Confronting our country’s climate needs is not helped by one-size-fits-all solutions. And, in contrast to California, Minnesota’s natural resources are abundant with soybeans and corn, producing biodiesel and ethanol, which supports the economy while protecting the environment. Minnesotans are already reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and can continue to be part of the solution without making drastic changes.
In a recent poll, the Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association found that Minnesotans overwhelmingly feel Gov. Walz is moving too quickly by adopting California’s car regulations. A majority of Democrats indicated they feel there is a lot more to learn about the California standards and that the Minnesota Legislature should study the issues after holding public hearings and before allowing Minnesotans to vote on whether to adopt these standards.
The same poll additionally found that only 1% of car buyers are certain they will purchase an electric vehicle. This is a very modest demand compared to car dealerships’ involuntary investments in electric vehicles.
However, this is not the current process underway. Instead, Gov. Walz and the MPCA are attempting to bypass the state Legislature and force through the mandate by unilateral administrative decree. By going through the administrative processes, Walz has deliberately chosen to circumvent the Legislature’s input and hold Minnesotans to standards set by California. Given this unusual political maneuver, the mandate has faced growing scrutiny and opposition.
The Legislature is the more appropriate body to address climate solutions in a deliberate and a bipartisan way. It is imperative our state’s agricultural community come together now and urge our elected officials in power to rethink forcing this mandate upon Minnesotans.
The specifics of the policy should be made transparent through the proper legislative process, under which Minnesota legislators, who represent the communities that would be impacted, are included. This would also give Minnesota stakeholders, including the farming community, an opportunity to be heard and voice our concerns.
If more extreme measures like a ban on gas-powered vehicles moves forward, projections show that corn consumption could fall by 2 billion bushels and soybean consumption by 470 million bushels. We could see corn prices cut in half and soybean prices fall by 44%.
The governor’s current approach discriminates against rural Minnesota and surely would harm Minnesota’s agricultural sector. The electric-vehicle mandate is not the answer for Minnesotans. On behalf of my fellow corn and soybean growers, I ask the governor and Legislature to please reexamine this mandate before it’s too late for Minnesota’s farmers.
Jim Jirava is a county delegate to Minnesota Soybean and Corn Growers for Becker and Mahnomen counties and is on the Minnesota Soybean Growers board of directors.