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Chairman Chuck Grassley speaks during a Senate Finance Committee hearing.  Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/Getty Images

With President Biden at the helm, Sen. Chuck Grassley is focusing on protecting the Renewable Fuel Standard — a law that had its ups and downs under the Trump administration.

  • "I hope it will be easier than [with] the Trump administration to protect ethanol and biofuels," Grassley told Axios.

Why it matters: The ethanol mandate boosts the price of corn and establishes a floor price for Iowa's most popular crop.

  • RFS requires oil refineries to annually blend 15 billion gallons of ethanol into the U.S. fuel supply.
  • Drops in fuel sales due to the COVID-19 pandemic already hurt farmers' pockets in 2020, and the EPA's unpredictable commitment to RFS under former director Andrew Wheeler didn't help.

His focus: In 2022, the 15-billion-gallon requirement will sunset and could leave Iowa farmers with too much corn, resulting in lower revenue.

  • Grassley said he has urged Biden's EPA nominee, Michael Regan, to quickly issue a rule and commit to the current volume.

What to watch: The Biden administration could move to prioritize support for renewable energy sources, like solar or electric, rather than ethanol.

More from his chat ...

On COVID: The 87-year-old senator said he feels fine after contracting COVID-19 three months ago.

  • Yes, he can still taste his favorite Dairy Queen.
  • Grassley said he was asymptomatic and mostly bored inside his D.C. townhouse for two weeks, including over Thanksgiving.
  • "I didn't even have my wife. She was isolated on the farm," Grassley said.

On his routine: He still runs daily, but he's gone from three miles down to two.

On retiring: Grassley said the virus hasn't slowed him down, but he's expected to announce his plans in the coming weeks.

  • He added that he would be proud of his grandson, Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley, if he decided to run for the U.S. Senate.
  • Pat Grassley has declined to tell reporters his 2022 plans ... yet.
  • "It's up to him. Obviously, I'd be very, very proud of him if he were to do that," Grassley said. "And (I'm) also proud of his work as the Speaker of the House."

This story first appeared in the Axios Des Moines newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

Go deeper

Republican Sen. Sasse slams Nebraska GOP for "weird worship" of Trump after state party rebuke

Sen. Ben Sasse, (R-Neb.) Photo: Andrew Harnik - Pool/Getty Images

The Nebraska Republican Party on Saturday formally "rebuked" Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) for his vote to impeach former President Trump earlier this year, though it stopped short of a formal censure, CNN reports.

Why it matters: Sasse is the latest among a slate of Republicans who have faced some sort of punishment from their state party apparatus after voting to impeach the former president. The senator responded statement Saturday, per the Omaha World-Herald, saying "most Nebraskans don't think politics should be about the weird worship of one dude."

Cuomo barraged by fellow Dems after second harassment accusation

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced a barrage of criticism from fellow Democrats after The New York Times reported that the second former aide in four days had accused him of sexual harassment.

Why it matters: Cuomo had faced a revolt from legislators for his handling of nursing-home deaths from COVID. Now, the scandal is acutely personal, with obviously grave political risk.

3 hours ago - Health

Fauci: Children "very likely" to get COVID vaccine at start of 2022

NIAID Director Anthony Fauci. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Children under age 12 will "very likely" be able to get vaccinated for coronavirus at the "earliest the end of the year, and very likely the first quarter of 2022," NIAID Director Anthony Fauci told "Meet the Press" Sunday.

Why it matters: Children generally aren't at risk of serious coronavirus infections, but vaccinating them will be key to protecting the adults around them and, eventually, reaching herd immunity, writes Axios' Caitlin Owens.