Republican Sen. [crscore]Ted Cruz[/crscore] managed to snag Iowa’s heaviest corn-producing counties despite his opposition to federal mandates and subsidies for ethanol. Does this mean King Corn’s days are numbered in the Hawkeye State?
Cruz snatched victory from challenger business mogul Donald Trump Monday night, but what’s most interesting is Iowa counties that grow the most corn supported the Texas senator despite his opposition to ethanol subsidies — ethanol is mostly made from corn.
Kossuth County, which produced 57.2 million bushels of corn in 2014, favored Cruz over Tump Monday night. Kossuth County is the biggest corn-producing county in the state. Cruz also won Sioux County, the fourth-largest corn-producing county in Iowa.
Currently, 47 percent of Iowa’s corn crop goes toward ethanol production, which is largely driven by a federal mandate to blend ethanol into U.S. fuel supplies. Cruz unabashedly opposes this mandate, which has made him a target of ethanol producers.
Trump also jumped on Cruz for his opposition to ethanol, warning Iowans Cruz would “destroy” the industry if he wins Monday night’s caucus.
“He will destroy your ethanol business 100%,” Trump said Monday. “And look, I’m not really blaming him because he’s financed by oil people. The oil people don’t want ethanol, it’s very simple.”
“Your ethanol business if Ted Cruz gets in will be wiped out within six months to a year. It’s gonna be gone,” Trump warned.
Trump’s warning may have swayed some Iowans — Cruz won the state’s first and fourth-largest corn counties, but Trump was able to win three of Iowa’s top five corn counties.
But Trump’s advice seems to have mostly fallen on deaf ears. Iowa’s 4th Congressional District overwhelmingly went for Cruz in Monday night’s caucus. Iowa’s 4th district is an ethanol industry stronghold — not only boasting the top corn-producing counties, but also because it supports the most ethanol jobs in the state.
Ethanol supports more than 24,000 jobs in this district, according to the ethanol group Fuels America. Despite the 4th district having the more ethanol jobs than the rest of Iowa, Cruz managed to win 22 of the its 39 counties — or 56 percent.
Cruz’s strong showing in Iowa suggests Hawkeye State voters are less beholden to the ethanol lobby than they had been in previous years. Polling up to the caucus showed the federal ethanol mandate was not a top concern for most Iowans.
A recent Des Moines Register poll found 77 percent of Iowa’s Republican voters said Gov. Terry Branstad’s rebuke of Cruz’s ethanol position was not going to change their minds about who they were going to vote for. Some eleven percent even said Branstad’s comments would make them more likely to vote for Cruz.
“I think a clear message coming out of Iowa is that whatever political influence ethanol used to have in the state, those days are now over,” George David Banks, executive vice president of the anti-ethanol mandate group the American Council for Capital Formation, said in a statement on the caucus results.
Cruz won the Iowa Republican caucuses with 28 percent of the vote. Trump came in second with 24 percent of the vote and Florida Sen. [crscore]Marco Rubio[/crscore] got 23 percent of the vote.
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