Trump plays the ethanol card against DeSantis on Iowa campaign trail

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Former President Donald Trump warned voters in Iowa Friday that Republican presidential rival Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has been on the wrong side of the ethanol issue, and cannot be trusted to protect the state’s all-important corn-fueled industry.

The issue of ethanol has become a quadrennial litmus test for candidates in Iowa, which leads the nation in ethanol production and is fiercely protective of federal policies promoting its use.

“I fought for Iowa ethanol like no president in history,” Mr. Trump said at a Farmers for Trump launch event in Council Bluffs, before drawing a contrast with Mr. DeSantis. “Ron DeSanctis,” he said, using the mocking name he came up with for his chief rival in the polls, “totally despises Iowa ethanol and ethanol generally.”

Mr. Trump said Mr. DeSantis, as a member of Congress, supported doing away with the standard that bolstered corn-based ethanol use by requiring fuel to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuels.

Mr. DeSantis “slandered the ethanol mandate as socialism,” Mr. Trump said. “He called his vicious plan to eliminate the Iowa farming industry a total no-brainer. Now he is going to come … here and he will probably say, ‘I am actually quite in favor of ethanol, I think it is wonderful.’”

Mr. Trump said he followed through on his promise while president to bolster the retail sale of fuel containing 15% ethanol and expand the number of ethanol gas pumps.

The renewable fuel standard has been controversial, with opponents saying the mandate creates higher costs for consumers and that fuel is not good for some engines.

In Iowa, however, attacking the mandate has been a third rail of politics.

Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa last year signed a bill into law last year requiring most Iowa gas stations to offer the higher ethanol blend by 2026. 

The pathway to the 2024 GOP presidential nomination starts in Iowa, where the White House hopefuls have historically looked for a strong showing to springboard them into New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary and ensuing contests.

The difference this go-round for the sprawling field of contenders is they are running against Mr. Trump, a popular former president whose grip on the base of the party has been on display at his campaign events and in polls that show him with a big double-digit lead.

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