Corn in spotlight at renewable fuels conference

Corn, its cost and supply was a major topic of discussion at the 12th annual Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) National Conference in Tucson, Ariz. National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) leaders were on hand to assure the more than 2,000 attendees that corn supplies will continue to meet all needs.

“As we all know, high prices fix high prices,” said NCGA Ethanol Committee Chairman Bruce Noel. “Cycles and volatility in the market are going to be apparent in the near-term, of course, as we look at energy prices, and how corn and ethanol react.”

Noel’s confidence was echoed by RFA President Bob Dinneen in his “State of the Industry” address to the conference. “I believe strongly in the ability of the American farmer to produce,” he said. “And I believe corn growers across this country, having received the market signal to grow more corn, will do so.

“Corn has been under-valued for too long, and ultimately a stronger rural economy, bolstered by increased farm income, will be better for us all,” Dinneen added.

Dinneen told the conference that the market for corn will find a new equilibrium, one that is capable of supplying both feed and industrial uses for corn.

“The livestock industry has to make adjustments,” added Noel. “We’re trying to do that, reminding them of our programs on dried distillers grains (DDGs), a co-product of ethanol production that can replace whole corn in the marketplace for livestock.”

Another topic of conversation was the future of cellulosic ethanol and how it would affect the market for corn. Noel said corn will be at the forefront of the development of ethanol from cellulosic sources.

“Cellulosic also can come from the corn kernel in the process we already have in our biorefineries today,” he noted. “And, of course, the corn stover that is in the fields already exists as a cellulosic source. Putting those two together with the increase in yields, we see a very bright future for corn (and ethanol).”

According to RFA, the U.S. ethanol industry used 1.8 billion bushels of grain to produce 4.9 billion gallons of ethanol and 12 million metric tons of DDGs in 2006. Ethanol production now accounts for 17 percent of the U.S. corn crop, and 26 percent of the sorghum crop.

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