DES MOINES — Gov. Terry Branstad says he plans to travel to Virginia to offer strong public support for the federal renewable fuel standard, a topic that he noted “didn’t come up” when he was in oil-rich Texas for a political fundraiser on Monday.
Branstad, who is expected to seek a sixth term as Iowa governor in 2014, said his trip to Houston was intended to learn about Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s economic successes and to meet with Perry friends “that said they wanted to help me.”
The timing of this week’s trip to Texas was interesting given oil industry efforts to undo the renewable fuel standard, Perry’s opposition to ethanol and Branstad’s intent to testify at a public hearing regarding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to reduce U.S. production of ethanol fuel in 2014.
Branstad told reporters at his weekly news conference he thinks the EPA is “making a huge mistake” to reduce the renewable fuel standard, which in turn could push the price of corn below the cost of production, drive down farmland prices and cut the demand for farm machinery.
“I don’t believe that this administration really realizes the huge negative impact that reducing the renewable fuel standard could have on the economy here in the Midwest, and we’re the one region that’s been the most successful,” he said. “This is going to hurt us.”
That’s a message he will deliver to the EPA, but he did not discuss the topic when he was in Texas at Perry’s invitation.
“That was not a subject that came up,” Branstad said, and he noted that he didn’t bring it up.
The GOP governor also declined to tell reporters how much money he raised for his expected 2014 bid, saying “this will all come out in the disclosure report, but we felt it was a very successful event.” He also said he did not refuse to take contributions from oil industry executives, telling reporters he has never put restrictions like that on campaign contributions.
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“I think people know where I stand,” Branstad said.
“There is nobody that’s a stronger supporter of renewable fuels than I am,” he added. "I am a strong advocate of that, and I’m not afraid to say that in Texas or anywhere else because I believe it."
Branstad said his Texas trip did not earn Perry an inside track in the state that kicks off the 2016 presidential sweepstakes, saying he has welcomed other prospective GOP candidates to Iowa in recent months and wants to “be a very good host” who encourages them to spend time and money in Iowa.