Southern Indiana corn farmer a strong advocate for ethanol - Indiana Corn and Soy

Southern Indiana corn farmer a strong advocate for ethanol

Posted: April 21, 2021
Category: ICMC, Indiana Corn and Soybean Post - Spring 2021, News

J.R. Roesner said his background is unconventional. Upon his Purdue University graduation in 2000, with a degree in mechanical engineering in hand, Roesner was on the way to accept his first job when his dad called and asked him to come back to the family farm. He has been a Hoosier farmer ever since.

Roesner currently farms with his brother, William, on their sixth-generation farm near Holland, Ind., where they grow corn, soybeans and wheat in and around Dubois County. Approximately 50 percent of the corn produced on Roesner’s farm is food grade. The other 50 percent goes to ethanol production, which is something Roesner is passionate about.

Ethanol is a renewable, domestically produced fuel. It can be used in low level blends like, E10 or E15, or it can be used in higher blends like E85 for flex-fuel vehicles. Ethanol is typically less expensive at the pump, increases fuel efficiency and helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Ethanol production is big business, not just in the United States, but also in Indiana. Roughly 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop is refined into ethanol and in 2019, ethanol production accounted for more than 68,600 direct jobs across the country. For the Hoosier State, in 2019, 47 percent of our corn crop was refined into ethanol making Indiana the fifth-largest, ethanol-producing state and boasts 14 ethanol bio-refining facilities.

Promoting ethanol

Roesner was first elected to the Indiana Corn Marketing Council (ICMC) in 2016. He took an immediate interest in ethanol-related projects around the state. Later, Roesner decided to take his voice to the national level, and he now serves as the vice chair of the Ethanol Action Team for the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA).

The Ethanol Action Team supports ethanol production by working with state and federal lawmakers on policies that promote the corn-based fuel, such as the Next Generations Fuel Act. They also assist in engine testing on E15 fuel, work with the higher blends infrastructure incentive program and educate consumers on the low carbon fuel for the future.

“With J.R.’s leadership, Indiana is well-represented on the NCGA’s Ethanol Action Team,” said Helena Jette, who is the ICMC’s Director of Biofuels and also a member of NCGA’s Ethanol Action Team. “J.R. is a firm believer in ethanol as a fuel of the future. A nearby ethanol plant is among the largest customers for his corn, so he is personally invested in its success. As a result, he studies and understands the new policies and rule changes that are debated in Washington, D.C. and Indianapolis. Indiana corn farmers are well served by J.R.’s involvement.”

The Next Generations Fuel Act, introduced to the U.S. Congress in September 2020 by Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos, recognizes ethanol as a better high-octane fuel with lowcarbon benefits, reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This legislation is set to require automakers to establish a new 98 Research Octane Number, remove outdated regulatory barriers and would allow year 2024 model cars to run on E30. This legislation could boost long-term corn demand for clean, affordable ethanol.

A clean energy source

Roesner said as demand for clean energy increases, farm and two sons, Clayton, age 12, and Beau, age 9. His farm groups should promote ethanol as an excellent carbon touches parts of Dubois, Pike, Spencer and Warrick reduction source and a low-carbon fuel. NCGA can show counties. how the crop can be used sustainably.

Roesner’s enduring interest in mechanical engineering and his farm’s connection to its customers has encouraged his work on the Ethanol Action Team. “With my unconventional background and degree, I am fascinated by the technology and the things that go into ethanol production. How we utilize it in engines really made me want to be a part of this team and something I wanted to continue to learn about,” Roesner explained.

Roesner poses with his wife Charlotte and two sons, Clayton, age 12, and Beau, age 9.

At home in Indiana, ICMC is working for Hoosier farmers to increase ethanol use and to expand the renewable fuels market. The state’s corn checkoff showcases several ethanol projects and partnerships each year. One of  ICMC’s signature events is the Indy Airstrip Attack, which features high-performance cars running on ethanol fuel at the Marion Municipal Airport. The checkoff also hosts events at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the Indianapolis 500-mile race, touting the benefits of ethanol.

Ethanol technology, research and policy has come a long way in a short amount of time, Roesner said. He added that informing consumers that biofuels like E85 and E15 are great for fuel economy, cost less per gallon and are better for the environment, helps to support farmers and the state’s 14 bio-refining facilities.

Carbon markets

Like many farmers, Roesner wants to expand his family’s farming operation and continue a path of growth. What’s different is that his family wants to be on the cutting edge and become leaders on the upcoming carbon markets that could soon come into effect.

Carbon markets, trading and farming can become complex quickly. But, the idea is that businesses or industry sectors can purchase carbon credits from farmers, ranchers, foresters or other businesses in their industry to decrease or limit their carbon footprint, therefore reducing the overall impact on climate change.

Roesner wants to encourage motorists to learn more about the fuel of the future and help to increase demand for ethanol. He also wants to encourage farmers to stay up to date on the latest technology with climate change rapidly shifting not only farming, but the world.

Roesner serves as the treasurer on the ICMC board of directors and lives in Ferdinand, Ind., with his wife Charlotte and two sons, Clayton, age 12, and Beau, age 9. His farm touches parts of Dubois, Pike, Spencer and Warrick counties.

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