Bill Christ, Chairman of the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, and Jeff Scates, President of the Illinois Corn Growers Association, along with Illinois Corn staff Rod Weinzierl and Dave Loos participated in an ethanol summit yesterday held in Chicago, IL and sponsored by the National Corn Growers Association. The goal of the meeting was to look at issues impacting ethanol – short term, medium term, and long term – and develop strategies to address the challenges and opportunities identified.
Present at the meeting were the National Corn Growers Association Board of Directors, the Presidents of state Corn Grower Associations, the Chairs of state checkoff boards, and the Executive Directors of all state Corn Grower groups. All in all, nearly 80 people were present for the discussion. The National Corn Growers Association Ethanol Committee will review the discussion and make a presentation to the delegates of the National Corn Growers Association at their July meeting.
The discussion at yesterday’s meeting focused mainly around the Renewable Fuels Standard II. Currently, corn-based ethanol* is limited to the extent that it can participate in the country’s goal of reducing foreign oil imports and reducing the environmental impacts of our fuel usage because of rulings in the RFS II.
Corn farmers continue to produce more corn.** This is a fact that is not disputed among experts in the industry. Yes, challenges can arise when disease or weather pressures are uncontrollable, but the overall big picture is that we will continue to have more and more corn. If the market opportunity for corn-based ethanol is limited, corn farmers must begin to look for other growing markets to absorb our increased yields.
Experts also predict no noticeable growth in other markets available for field corn like exports, livestock feed, and human consumption (corn flakes, HFCS, etc). This isn’t rocket science; increased yields require increased market opportunities. The challenge is to develop markets that can maintain a vibrant agricultural industry, the very same vibrancy that has kept rural America afloat during our recent economic downturn.
The current RFS II rulings arbitrarily preclude corn-based ethanol from fulfilling more than just 15 billion gallons of the renewable fuel mandate. (Current corn-based ethanol production capacity is 14.9 billion gallons out of the 15 billion gallons allowed by 2015.) This decision is based on emotion and not fact. In reality, corn-based ethanol COULD qualify as an advanced biofuel and COULD help the U.S. achieve its energy independence goals if the rulings were based on corn-ethanol’s true potential. This would offer a growing market opportunity in the future that corn farmers desperately need.
During the meeting yesterday, all these concerns were discussed and corn farmer leaders sent off to consider recommendations to address the mountains set before them.
*Corn-based ethanol is made from field corn, not the sweet corn that people eat. Farmers are not taking food directly out of the mouths of humans by supporting the corn-based ethanol industry.
**Corn yields continue to grow. Experts predict that by the year 2030 we can expect corn yields to grow to 280 bushel per acre. In 2012, predictions are 160 bushels per acre. Other markets for corn aren’t growing this quickly, so using the additional crop for renewable fuel seems a great solution.