8.15.2016 | printed in the Summer 2016 issue of VITAL magazine
Over the past year, Vital has been explaining the history behind POET, a story that began on a family farm in Wanamingo, MN when I was merely 14 years old. At this time, corn prices had already dropped to $1.30 a bushel with no end in sight. There simply had to be a better way, which is why my father decided to turn to ethanol production as a way to use up his low-priced corn and turn it into higher value energy.
With another potential corn and agricultural crisis looming, we must not overlook the facts. The current national corn yield average is 160 bushels per acre, but I have seen technology that can boost yields to over 280 bushels in the near future. In fact, later in this issue you will have the opportunity to learn about our nation’s increasing corn yields and hear from farmers who recently won the national corn contest with a yield of 532 bushels per acre! Without increased ethanol percentages in gasoline, there is no way to use up the excess supply. Any possible ag crisis would not only affect farmers, but it could cause devastating impacts on both our Midwestern states and urban cities. If we do not fight back against government agencies and politicians that are pandering to oil companies and stopping the growth of ethanol usage, this downturn could easily last for decades.
What most people don’t understand is that both the oil and ag industries need the gasoline market to succeed and are in a relentless war for control. That war is being played out in the Environmental Protection Agency and other regulatory bodies, the White House, the halls of Congress and even in our state legislatures. The winner of this battle will undoubtedly experience success, while the loser should prepare for a bleak future. Folks, the truth is on our side – ethanol is the right solution, but this battle will not be easy. We know moving beyond a 10 percent ethanol blend will offer consumers lower prices at the pump, establish a cleaner environment and keep cancer-causing chemicals out of our fuel supply. Increased ethanol production has positive ripple effects throughout our economies including strong U.S. GDP, resilient net farm income and enhanced job opportunities for our rural communities, but the oil industry is determined to keep us at a 10 percent blend to pad their pocketbooks and maximize their volume while watching the ag economy struggle. If the oil guys win, there will be a crisis. We must re-energize ourselves to win this fight.
I have said it before and I will say it again: agriculture producers and companies need to let Washington, D.C. know we need a larger share of the liquid fuel market. Ag land values have improved by over $4 million, and that could reverse again like it did in the 1980s. We need to expand E15 infrastructure and eventually move to even higher blends like E30 and E50. Driving our cause forward will take continued passion and investment of time and effort from all of us, including farmers and ag companies. I can assure you, oil landowners and investors are traveling to Washington to lobby and are investing in PACs that are working against ag and ethanol interests. We all know oil state politics traditionally have ruled the day in D.C., but if we work together, I believe our collective efforts to spread the truth about biofuels can drown out their lies.
American author Orison Swett Marden once said, “A constant struggle, a ceaseless battle to bring success from inhospitable surroundings, is the price of all great achievement.” This quote rings true for all of us today. I am certain if we join forces and work together, we can improve our nation’s fuel supply and ensure a solid future for our industry for many years to come.
Other Stories in this collection:
In Sight: Too Much Corn?
by Jeff Broin, Executive Chairman and CEO of POET