Policy, checkoff groups work together to expand opportunities for biofuels
BY DAVE BLOWER JR.
As consumers seek more environmentally friendly solutions to energy challenges, Indiana’s corn and soybean policy organizations are working to convince state and federal lawmakers that farmers can help provide those clean fuel answers.
On May 9-10, the Indiana Soybean Alliance Membership & Policy Committee (M&P) and the Indiana Corn Growers Association (ICGA) hosted stakeholders in the biofuels industry, retail fuel business owners and farmers for the High Performance, Low Carbon Liquid Fuel Summit at the Dallara IndyCar Factory in the shadows of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Ind.
The environmental benefits, economic potential and overall value of corn-based ethanol and soybean-based biodiesel were the focus of the two-day Liquid Fuels Summit. ICGA President Scott Smith, a farmer from Windfall, Ind., and M&P Chair Keevin Lemenager, a farmer from Monrovia, Ind., were the first to address the conference attendees.
“Ethanol is more than a quality fuel or fuel additive. It’s a performance-enhancing, low carbon, octane source made from renewable corn,” Smith explained. “Soy biodiesel is a clean-burning alternative fuel that can be used in existing, unmodified diesel engines. Both biofuels are critical for a sustainable, clean energy future. Farmers are good stewards of the land. We feel the responsibility to create a more environmentally and economically sustainable world for future generations. Thank you for coming together today to help expand the use of ethanol and biodiesel in Indiana.”
Advocating for more long-term opportunities for biofuels is a primary mission for M&P and ICGA. This year, the soybean and corn policy organizations have campaigned for year-round sales of higher blends of ethanol and a biodiesel fuel tax credit.
“Along with ICGA, (M&P) works closely with our allied industries, recognizing the roles that food, livestock, industry, trade and fuel markets respectively play in building one, cohesive farm economy supporting our rural communities,” Lemenager said. “As many of you know, we are membership organizations that serve as the policy voice of Indiana’s soy and corn farmers. Our policy work is not funded by checkoff dollars. That means we must rely on membership dollars and corporate contributions to ensure farmer voices are heard and to address issues at all levels of government that directly affect Hoosier crop producers. We continue the work to educate our state legislators and our Congressional delegation around the positive benefits and economic impact of biofuels. This is an all-out effort to build stronger soy and corn industries for Indiana and to reduce dependency on foreign oil.”
The policy groups work closely with the state’s corn and soybean checkoff programs, the Indiana Soybean Alliance (ISA) and the Indiana Corn Marketing Council (ICMC), which are charged with increasing production of ethanol and biodiesel, expanding the infrastructure for biofuels and aiding consumer trust in the products. ISA Board Chair Mike Koehne, a farmer from Greensburg, Ind., and ICMC President Paul Hodgen, a farmer from Roachdale, Ind., both said a successful biofuels industry is vital for Indiana’s farmers.
“As the directors of the ICMC, we are tasked with the stewardship of the funds collected through the checkoff,” Hodgen told the Summit attendees. “Now, we have a fancy mission and vision statement, but to boil that down into something everyone here can remember, our goals are to move the pile of corn, make that pile more valuable and to produce that pile of corn more efficiently and environmentally friendly. Part of that is what we’re talking about here today.”
Koehne said coordinated efforts between ethanol and biodiesel industry stakeholders, environmental groups and agricultural leaders have all worked to grow the biofuels industry. He said there’s room for more growth and continued, coordinated efforts are needed.
“We are grateful for partners like you in the biofuels industry who support our farmers to increase demand for our programs,” Koehne added. “Indiana has five biodiesel plants with a combined capacity of more than 100 million gallons of biodiesel and is home to the world’s largest integrated soy biodiesel facility. A total of 289 million pounds of soybean oil from Indiana soybeans goes to producing biodiesel. Our state is a leader in biofuels thanks to your continued partnership.”
Measurable economic benefits
Helena Jette, ISA and ICMC Director of Biofuels, said the production of biodiesel creates measurable economic benefits across Indiana. As the seventh-largest producer of biodiesel in the country, increased demand has created roughly 3,200 jobs across the state and boosted soybean farmers’ income by an estimated $36 per acre. She is a part of an effort, known as the B20 Club of Indiana, that encourages large public and private fleets to commit to using B20, which is a blended fuels of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent petroleum diesel fuel.
“The benefits of B20 biodiesel are clear,” Jette said. “It is a crucial component of green fleet technologies that boost the performance of diesel vehicles; and since it is produced locally from renewable resources, like sustainable soybean oil, B20 biodiesel helps support all of Indiana while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 80 percent compared to petroleum diesel.”
She added that biodiesel boosts all of Indiana by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality. Biodiesel lowers carbon footprints by reducing lifecycle carbon emissions. Biodiesel also improves air quality by drastically reducing particulate matter and other harmful vehicle emissions.
The state’s ethanol industry has a similar impact on the environment and the farm economy. Indiana ranks as the fifth-largest producer of U.S. ethanol – generating more than 1.2 billion gallons per year. The Hoosier State produces nearly 8 percent of the total U.S. ethanol output. There are 14 ethanol plants in the state. Collectively, these ethanol plants consume about 47 percent of Indiana’s total corn crop – more than 461 million bushels.
“Almost half of Indiana corn is converted into ethanol,” Hodgen said. “Biofuels are positively serving our state’s economy, environment and local farmers. Our organizations are doing all they can to help fuel retailers take full advantage of the benefits of ethanol blends in their operations. One of our priorities is to spark conversation and collaboration across the industry. This fuels summit supports that mission.”
He added that biofuels have contributed to the checkoffs’ beneficial return on investment to farmers. The state’s soybean checkoff returns $12.34 for every dollar invested. Hodgen said Indiana’s corn checkoff program has enjoyed similar success.
“For farmers, every $1 invested into the checkoff creates a $6.40 return to each farmer’s operation,” Hodgen said. “For every $1 of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) generated by Indiana agriculture creates another 88 cents in the economic activity of our state’s industries. When you think about it, that’s a tremendous return on investment.”
Along with ISA and ICMC, the American Lung Association was another primary sponsor of the Liquid Fuels Summit. Other sponsors included the B20 Club of Indiana, Family Express, First Farmers Bank and Trust, the Indiana Ethanol Producers Association, Growth Energy, Valero, Clean Fuels Alliance America, Fuels Institute 10, CountryMark, Central Indiana Ethanol, Corteva Agriscience, the Michigan Advanced Biofuels Coalition and Indigenous Energy.