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biofuel demand@ (Updates with Perdue comments, details, background)
WASHINGTON, Aug 28 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump will announce a plan to boost demand for biofuels, which farmers and producers say has suffered from waivers the administration has issued exempting oil refiners from requirements to blend ethanol into the U.S. fuel supply, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said on Wednesday.
The Trump administration has scrambled Cabinet members for several weeks now to churn out a plan that would quell an uproar among American farmers after the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) decision to grant 31 biofuel waivers to small oil refineries.
Perdue was speaking at an agriculture policy forum as part of the Illinois Farm Progress Show. He did not provide a timeline for when the president would make the announcement.
"This is news the President wants to deliver..over the mitigation" of small refinery exemptions, Perdue said. He added that the USDA has presented proposals on strengthening infrastructure to allow more widespread use of E15, a higher ethanol blend of gasoline.
Last week Trump summoned Perdue and EPA chief Andrew Wheeler and a few White House advisors to come up with a solution that will boost biofuel demand as he faced with mounting anger from the Farm Belt over his policies that allow oil refineries use less corn-based ethanol.
Perdue also said he held a meeting with Wheeler and Energy Secretary Rick Perry on Wednesday over the issue.
U.S. regulations require refiners to blend biofuels into their gasoline or buy credits to fund those refiners who can. Small refiners can seek exemptions, but Trump's EPA has vastly expanded the waiver program and in August granted 31 exemptions.
The move has infuriated the ethanol industry, which has seen several plant closures and production cuts due to low margins and triggered a flood of criticism directed at Trump last week.
Refiners dismiss farmers' argument that waivers cause demand destruction. (Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk)