U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar reiterated her support for ethanol during a tour of the Guardian Energy ethanol plant in Janesville.
She told plant leaders Friday evening that she feels confident the federal renewable fuel standard, a requirement for minimum renewable fuel volume in the country's diesel and gasoline sold. The requirement for 2017 includes 15 billion gallons of ethanol, a 3.4 percent increase from the 2016 floor of 14.5 billion gallons.
“We always need to keep that strong and watch for efforts to decrease it,” she said. “But after a long battle, I feel good about it.”
Sonny Perdue, the nominee for secretary of agriculture under President Donald Trump, told Klobuchar there are no plans to change the standard. For several years in the Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency set the regulatory standard at a level lower than what was prescribed in legislation.
“Sen. Klobuchar has been a great supporter of the renewable fuel standard and our core interest,” Guardian CEO Jeanne McCaherty said. “We wanted to give her an update on our progress and continue to ask for her support.”
The Janesville facility turns 45 million bushels of corn into 130 million gallons of ethanol each year.
Ethanol plants take the corn, grind it and mix it with hot water and enzymes to get the corn’s starch to turn into sugar. After adding yeast and other ingredients, it ferments in tanks for about two and a half days.
The fermentation creates about 14 percent alcohol, which becomes ethanol. Byproducts are put to other uses. The Janesville plant markets distillers grains and corn oil as animal feed.
The plant collects corn from 2,200 producers from up to 100 miles away, Plant Manager Ben Stover said.
“The corn industry has been able to push its yields,” he said. “Ethanol is an outlet for the corn and the global market for corn would be severely depressed without it.”
Minnesota has 20 ethanol plants that produce 1.2 billion gallons. The state ranks fifth in ethanol production.
Now, Klobuchar said her focus as a member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee has shifted to working on the 2018 Farm Bill.
She said priorities include crop insurance for corn, dairy producers, research support and young farmers and ranchers programs. For agricultural and rural development, Klobuchar also highlighted broadband infrastructure as a need.
“The president has voiced support for infrastructure, which includes roads, bridges, water infrastructure and broadband,” Klobuchar said. “Despite the rancor and fighting, if anything can bring legislators together, it’s one — farms, two — infrastructure and three — broadband.”