Ernst sees ethanol’s strengths, capabilities

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) saw how Green Plains Ethanol facility in Shenandoah can get even more out of the corn kernel.

And she wants the local, state and national economy to get even more out of the corn-based fuel and food.

As a way to resume her 99-county tour of the state, Ernst was at Green Plains on Thursday, May 28.

“It’s real exciting to see new technology to get additional sources” Ernst said after a tour of the plant with Green Plains CEO Todd Becker that included how even more protein can be extracted from corn. The end result is providing material for pet and aquaculture markets.

“It’s feed for shrimp and fish,” Ernst said.

Becker said the product is more desirable than traditional dried distillers grain from ethanol facilities.

“It’s filling this hole between soybean meal and fish meal, between 48% and 60% protein,” said Becker. “Nothing really exists at that high quality. That’s what we’re making out there, and we are sold out. It’s a ready-made pet food today. Everything we make out there is going into products like that, which would never happen in distillers grains, ever.”

Ethanol production, which Iowa is a leader in, can get a boost from finding other products and markets.

Since the COVID-19 threat has created social distancing guidelines, gasoline use in the United States dropped to 50-year lows across the country. This decrease in ethanol use has led to more than 130 biofuel plants to partially or fully shut down. Forty percent of Iowa ethanol production has been lost.

A bill backed by Ernst, fellow Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to reimburse biofuel producers for feedstock purchases from Jan. 1 through March 31, through the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC).

“Iowa leads the nation in biofuel production. With folks traveling less and ethanol plants shuttering across the heartland, this pandemic has certainly taken a toll on our renewable fuel producers. Just like other farmers and members of our ag community, Iowa’s hardworking biofuel producers need relief. This bipartisan effort will help support this vital part of our state’s economy and provide assistance to our farmers, workers, and producers,” Ernst said.

Green Plains can convert 28 million bushels of corn a year to produce 82 million gallons of ethanol, 160,000 tons of dried distillers’ grains for livestock feed and 31 million pounds of corn oil.

Ernst is asking the Trump Administration to uphold the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and decline requests for the RFS to be waived. During a Senate EPW hearing last month, Ernst asked Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler about the impact COVID-19 has had on ethanol producers, how he intends to handle the request for an RFS waiver, and his plans to expand biofuel infrastructure by fixing labeling issues for higher blends of ethanol.

Ernst reminded Wheeler he said he would end warning labels on 15 percent blends of ethanol and allow E15 to be sold through existing infrastructure.

“We need follow through on the plans made by the administration,” Ernst said in Shenandoah.

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