Shortly after the founding of our nation, American citizens engaged in a debate about what kind of country they and later generations would live in. No one understood the value of rural Americans more than Thomas Jefferson. Writing in a letter to John Jay, the author of the Declaration of Independence stated, "Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bands." Then serving as secretary of state, Jefferson understood that the products of rural America, through trade, would be our connection to the rest of world and lay the groundwork for our freedoms.
That sentiment still rings true today, and I am proud of the work done in the Senate and by the administration to support and promote the prosperity of rural America.
Nebraska is the second-largest ethanol-producing state in the country with 25 ethanol plants that have the capacity to produce more than 2 billion gallons of renewable fuel annually. Biofuel contributes $5 billion to Nebraska’s economy every year, and Nebraskans fill more than 1,300 full-time jobs related to its production.
As a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, I was happy to see that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the finalized 2018 Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) and 2019 biomass-based diesel volumes under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The final rule set the total renewable fuel volume at 19.29 billion gallons. This included 15 billion gallons of conventional biofuel and 4.29 billion gallons of advanced biofuel.
These volumes provide clarity for Nebraska’s ag producers and innovators focused on the future of biofuels. Moreover, the final rule illustrates a commitment to rural America. It will continue to foster investment in the Americans who feed the world and provide renewable energy solutions to match our country's energy needs.
Good agriculture policy also relies heavily on trade that is both smart and fair. According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, Nebraska ranks fifth in the country in the value of its agricultural exports. Over 90 thousand jobs rely on exporting Nebraska's high-quality products through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
I support fair trade because it helps Nebraskans provide for their families.
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with President Trump at the White House and expressed my support for trade agreements. During our conversation, I highlighted the significant role the NAFTA plays in expanding agriculture exports and creating manufacturing jobs in the United States. I urged him to safeguard the competitive advantage our agriculture producers and manufacturers have worked so hard to build as his administration negotiates with our North American trade partners.
As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, I also met with Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and again emphasized the value of NAFTA to rural America. I look forward to continuing these discussions with the president and his administration in the weeks to come.
Rural America puts food on tables all over the world and serves as the foundation for a healthy, growing economy. For our country to continue moving forward, we need to ensure that our farmers and livestock producers have stable and dependable markets for their products. I work every day to make sure that continues to happen.