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Jeb Bush navigates Iowa’s corn ma(i)ze

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Jeb Bush‘s presidential pre-campaign may hit a snag in the languid corn fields of Iowa owing to his past support of alternative biofuels, according to John Ward of Yahoo! News. While he bent some during a stump speech in Des Moines, he was somewhat less than all ears when it came to the issue of subsidizing corn for energy purposes. That may cede some valuable ground in the caucus state to challengers like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, writes Ward:

One challenge in running for president is negotiating the surprisingly cutthroat politics of Iowa agriculture, as Jeb Bush and Scott Walker indicated last week, when they both showed more support for corn-based ethanol than they have in the past.

Walker made a reversal of his past positions, but Bush’s change in position was more nuanced. Bush, unlike Walker, who has opposed ethanol outright in the past, has been a champion of the alternative fuel.

As one of the most successful practitioners of the notoriously delicate art of Florida politics, Jeb knows something about balancing the interests of widely divergent constituencies, from Blountstown crackers to the manifold Hispanic communities of Miami. But Jeb faces something altogether novel in his current endeavor — and he’s got his work cut out for him if he is to stand his ground on alternative fuels while also placating the Big Corn magnates of Iowa:

During his appearance at a candidate forum hosted by the ethanol and corn industries in Des Moines, Iowa, on March 7, Bush said that the federal renewable fuel standard (RFS) — the law requiring gasoline and diesel fuel to be blended with a percentage of ethanol — “has worked, for sure.”

A few days later, however, the head of a key industry group of second-generation ethanol producers said publicly, without qualification, that the law is not working.

“Eight years after its passage, it is easy to see that the RFS may be working for some, but it is only minimally helpful to advance the promise and potential of next-generation renewable fuels,” Michael McAdams, president of the Advanced Biofuels Association, said in a speech. “We need to acknowledge the simple fact: that the RFS is not equally helpful to all sectors of the biofuels industry.”

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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