Farmers and ethanol plant employees speak up for RFS

Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy ethanol plant near Council Bluff, Iowa (photo courtesy Todd & Sargent)

Attempts by oil refiners to modify the Renewable Fuel Standard have prompted an outcry from farmers and ethanol plant employees who support the biofuels mandate.

Brownfield spoke with some of them during a recent visit to the Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy (SIRE) ethanol plant near Council Bluffs, Iowa.

“Ethanol has been such an important market for agriculture. It’s improved the whole rural economy,” said Curt Mether of Logan, Iowa, vice-president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association. “What they’re talking about now is the RINs. That is the way they enforce the RFS and without the RFS, we wouldn’t have access to the market. That’s why it’s important.”

AUDIO: Curt Mether

Brian Cahill is president and general manager of the SIRE plant. He says the plant has 62 employees and processes 45 million bushels of corn annually to produce 140 million gallons of ethanol.

Cahill said the RFS has helped revitalize many rural communities.

“Rural areas were having a hard time keeping their younger people in the area. Because of ethanol, that’s allowed opportunities for a lot of families to continue to stay together in the area,” Cahill said. “So it’s had both direct economic benefits and then also a lot of other benefits–opportunities for new employees and continuing to provide farmers with a value for their corn and ultimately other crops that they grow.”

AUDIO: Brian Cahill

Adam Sudmann of Traynor, Iowa said the SIRE plant is very important to their farming operation.

“We sell #2 yellow corn and Enogen corn to SIRE here, and we also use DDGs. We have a sow farrow-to-finish operation and we use the DDGs in the hog feed,” Sudmann said.

AUDIO: Adam Sudmann

Justin Shultz is the plant coordinator at SIRE and serves on the Pottawattamie board of supervisors.

“SIRE was probably one of the biggest economic development successes for our county. We have about 65 employees here and then when you look at all the rest of the industry, we support about 3,000 jobs around the area,” Schultz said. “When you consider that, if the RFS changes, that’s probably going to drop the bushel price (of corn) by about a quarter, that’s a big deal. When you look at the farm valuations, that’s going to decrease the tax dollars that are coming into our local government. So the second and third order impacts are going to be pretty devastating if we can’t keep the RFS in place.”

AUDIO: Justin Schultz

Kevin Ross, who farms near Underwood, Iowa, said the RFS is one of the best policies to ever come out of Washington.

“That’s not just for the Midwest—that goes for the coasts, for air quality and all the jobs it has created,” Ross said. “It’s a green policy that has really help rural American and agriculture in general—and lots of other people.”

AUDIO: Kevin Ross

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