Grain Bins


SD Corn Still Blazing the Trail for Ethanol in South Dakota

Posted on February 20, 2019

South Dakota Corn was the catalyst for the state’s ethanol industry and has led the way for it to grow into what it is today. SD Corn will always fight to move ethanol forward.

South Dakota’s ethanol industry started in 1988 with the first plant in Scotland. Today, our state boasts 15 ethanol plants, with a new one coming on line this year. In 2002, South Dakota produced only 76 million gallons of ethanol. The state now produces over 1 billion gallons of ethanol annually. SD Corn is working closely with the U.S. Grains Council to expand global markets, with a goal of exporting 4 billion gallons of U.S. ethanol annually by 2022.

Prior to the ethanol industry launching in South Dakota, SD Corn funded the feasibility studies necessary to determine that ethanol would be successful in our state. Setting up the infrastructure for the first ethanol plants to be built here was a major undertaking for SD Corn. Our organization was also instrumental in negotiating with ethanol industry leadership so South Dakota corn farmers could invest in those first ethanol plants and offer farmers ethanol credits—as farmers should be involved in the success of ethanol plants.

SD Corn helped to set up South Dakota’s ethanol producer incentive program, and as more plants came on board, we worked to more than double the incentive program from $2.5 million in 2003 to $7 million. SD Corn also helped set up the ethanol pump infrastructure program to pump higher blends of ethanol in South Dakota and establish blender pumps throughout our state. We also funded a national initiative that financed 2,300 pumps throughout major metropolitan areas in the United States. These programs will increase the availability and demand for higher ethanol blends to reduce the demand for foreign oil.

Advocating for Ethanol

Protecting South Dakota corn farmers’ interests is another area where SD Corn shines and has a massive track record of success. SD Corn has worked with auto manufacturers and fuel pump manufacturers to give consumers access to more choices.

More recently, SD Corn’s leadership made an impact all the way to our nation’s capital last summer when former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt visited South Dakota. Pruitt had granted biofuels waivers to oil companies, squashing ethanol production. SD Corn collaborated with other groups to organize a tractor rally in Sioux Falls to bring attention to Pruitt’s inaction on E-15. The message got through—President Trump committed to make E-15 available year-round, and Pruitt resigned from his position.

Currently, we support Governor Noem as she facilitates the transition of South Dakota’s entire state vehicle fleet to E30, modeling after Nebraska. This move presents a unique opportunity to conduct research to blaze a trail for higher ethanol blends to be used in all vehicles. SD Corn will work with Governor Noem to make sure that all proper processes are followed to make this initiative a success.

SD Corn’s efforts also included contracting with Applied Ecological Services Inc. in a pilot program to collect samples from cornfields. The test results will determine if no-till soils retain high levels of organic carbon from high-residue crops. If so, it would create a special market for South Dakota ethanol in places such as California, which has a low-carbon fuel standard intended to decrease carbon dioxide emissions.

U.S. ethanol exports surged 19 percent to a record 1.62 billion gallons in 2018—and SD Corn has been there every step of the way blazing a trail for South Dakota ethanol to be a major player in that amount.

SD Corn has been a major presence since the beginning of South Dakota’s ethanol industry in 1988, and will continue to work to move the dial on ethanol and increase the amount of corn we grind.

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