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European Union clears way for American soybean fuel


WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a win for American biofuel interests, the European Commission – which negotiates trade deals for the 28-nation European Union – has stated it will begin accepting U.S. soybeans in EU biofuel.

The Commission said the recognition of U.S. beans for use in biofuel under its set of sustainability criteria outlined in its Renewable Energy Directive (RED) will be valid until July 1, 2021; however, it could extend beyond that date as long as they meet sustainability criteria set in new EU rules in the 2021-30 period.

Building on the widely accepted U.S. Soybean Sustainability Assurance Protocol (SSAP), the new program, SSAP-RED, addresses the specific requirements of the RED regulations, including restrictions on land conversion with commitments on auditing, compliance and reporting.

“This is yet another step in the right direction for the U.S. Soy industry. SSAP-RED is a commitment to the future by U.S. soybean farmers,” said Derek Haigwood, chair of the U.S. Soybean Export Council. “U.S. producers and exporters have gone the extra mile in meeting the requirements of the RED and look forward to working with our producers and traders in the European Union.”

In July 2018, President Trump agreed not to impose tariffs on EU automobile imports while the two sides explored ways to boost trade. This included a possible deal to remove tariffs on non-auto industrial goods, as well as boosting EU imports of U.S. soybeans and liquefied natural gas.

The European Commission has said the July agreement led to a 112 percent increase in U.S. soybean imports in the second half of 2018.

Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chair John Hoeven (R-N.D.) credited talks between Trump and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker for the decision. "We appreciate the administration's continued progress on securing better trade deals. Today's decision will bring vital market access for our state and nation's farmers.”

However, the news will not be leading to a flood of soybeans into the European market. “This won’t change the export of soybeans that much,” said Paul Winters, director for public affairs and federal communications at the National Biodiesel Board.

Currently, soybeans exported from the United States to the EU are used for animal feed, but the oil byproduct could not be used for fuel.

“Because Europe wasn’t allowing the use of that byproduct oil for biodiesel, they were either shipping the oil itself back to the U.S. or converting it to biodiesel there and shipping that back to the U.S,” said Winters.

The U.S. is the EU’s main soybean supplier, with a 75 percent share of EU soybean imports. Approximately 14 million tons per year are used as animal feed.