WHEATON — Recently, the governors of a handful of states asked the Environmental Protection Agency to waive the Renewable Fuel Standard for this year. An RFS waiver would be a political boon to their states’ oil refineries. However, waiving the RFS would create unnecessary economic damage here in Minnesota.

Biodiesel producers and industry workers are vital to the nation’s critical agriculture infrastructure. It is important to maintain a healthy industry during the current COVID-19 crisis, so that it can continue to thrive once the country starts the road to recovery. The U.S. biodiesel industry supports more than 60,000 domestic jobs across multiple sectors and contributes $17 billion to the nation’s economy.

Minnesota’s biodiesel industry is an important contributor to our state’s economy. The advanced fuel supports nearly 5,400 jobs in the state and generates $1.7 billion in economic activity. Biodiesel production added $330 million — about 13 percent — to the value of Minnesota's 298 million bushels of soybeans in 2019. Moreover, Minnesota is among the top markets for biodiesel in the nation, using what we produce right here at home.

We are fortunate here to have Gov. Tim Walz chair the Governors Biofuels Coalition. Last month the respective governors of Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota and Nebraska sent a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue requesting financial assistance for biofuels producers who are struggling financially during these trying times. These biofuels plants directly support their local farmers; keeping them operating is imperative to rural financial stability.

On top of that, last year Gov. Walz formed a Biofuels Council with stakeholders, including my fellow Minnesota Soybean Growers Association Director, Bob Worth. Renewable fuels also garner significant bipartisan support from Minnesota’s senators and representatives in Washington, D.C.

But if the RFS is waived, Minnesota — and the rest of the country — would lose these enormous economic benefits. In fact, biodiesel producers would be especially harmed by an RFS waiver. Biofuel producers are facing the same economic hardships as oil refineries. It simply wouldn’t be fair to give oil refiners a political gift at their expense. We need our leaders in Washington, D.C. to stand up for their constituents and tell the EPA to protect to the RFS.

Jamie Beyer is a Wheaton farmer and president of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association.