Aid Is Needed Now

  • Friday, 08 May 2020 11:01

The COVID-19 pandemic is crippling the ethanol industry and help is needed now, not later. 

The USDA's announcement this week that it would make available $86 million in competitive grants to increase access to E15 and higher blends of ethanol is a positive step in growing the ethanol industry.

But such an initiative will take time to execute while the actual expansion of infrastructure to dispense E15 and other blends of ethanol would take even longer. Simply put, this is an initiative that would help the ethanol industry in the medium and long-term but what is needed now is help for the short-term. 

According to a bipartisan letter from US senators to President Donald Trump yesterday, the pandemic has resulted in the idling of over 70 ethanol plants across the country with an annual production capacity of 6.1 billion gallons while another 70 plants have cut production.

It's not so different in Minnesota. Some plants have reduced production by 50 percent while others have temporarily idled production. This, in turn, has adversely affected the countless number of farms and industries that work with Minnesota's ethanol industry.

In their letter, the senators said plant closures have caused commercial CO2 supply shortages and this has affected meatpackers and beverage makers. DDGS production is also down, which in turn is affecting the livestock industry.

Simply put, it's imperative the ethanol industry gets help now. One way is for ethanol plants to recieve cash payments for bushels of corn that were processed by an ethanol plant over certain dates. These payments will help the ethanol plants remain financially viable for a few months so that they will begin to resume full production when this crisis begins to dissipate. 

More importantly, this will ensure there will still be an ethanol industry when the USDA's infrastructure initiative actually rolls out.