Wisconsin Farmers Union delegates discuss the future of ethanol


Wisconsin Farmers Union delegates discuss the future of ethanol

Wisconsin Farmers Union has proposed ethanol policy that would seek 20% cost sharing from state and federal governments for blender pump installation.  That same proposal would also drop policy language supporting federal subsidies for ethanol research, ethanol import tariffs and biofuel exports, bringing plenty of debate Sunday.

Grace McLaughlin is from the south-central part of Wisconsin. She says, “The petroleum industry gets tons of subsidies so why shouldn’t the ethanol industry? And, same again with any tariffs.”

The resolution was highly critical of the EPA for granting Small Refinery Waivers to oil refineries.

Grain Committee Chair Les Danielson says the local ethanol plant helps his operation. “You send a bushel of corn in, you get three gallons of ethanol, you get twenty pounds of dry distillers grain, which on my farm replaces soybean meal. So we talk about feeding local, buying local. I don’t get my (feed from) soybean meal from Mankato (MN) which is 120 miles away. Mine comes from the ethanol plant six miles away.”

And, Danielson is concerned about what happens if the ethanol market dries up. “You know, as we move to electric vehicles, which GM just announced in 2035 they’ll be all EV’s, it’s going to be more power lines, more transmission lines, so we have a history of, you know, having issues with those in Wisconsin.”

Karl Hakanson from Dunn County is also an extension agent in Hennepin County, Minnesota.  Hakanson told delegates he is not a fan of ethanol and says there is too much corn now. “I don’t think corn ethanol is going to hang in there in the long run but, it can be a bridge until we figure out all of this other stuff to get better markets, more markets, and diversity.”

Dennis Rosen questions if there should be more prairie grass ethanol and less corn ethanol, and if there should be conservation standards limiting how much ground can be torn up for ethanol and how many gallons can be produced.

Farmers Union delegates debated over the weekend, but since the convention was virtual, they are mailing in their policy resolution ballots for a February 9th count.