Just a few short weeks ago the EPA announced its proposed targets for the nation’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The RFS determines how much ethanol will be blended in to the nation’s gasoline supplies. The EPA’s proposed targets fell well short of direction given to the agency by Congress. Congress was very clear in its direction that the United States can and should produce significantly more ethanol for our country’s cars and trucks.
The EPA’s action has broad implications, particularly here at home in Nebraska. Nebraska ranks second in the U.S. in ethanol production. What started as a single ethanol plant in 1985 has blossomed into a true industry for our state with 24 ethanol plants scatted across Nebraska today. There’s no question the boom in ethanol production has helped boost corn prices and farm income. But the benefits of that growth don’t stop there.
A study conducted by the University of Nebraska released this past April shows that Nebraska’s ethanol industry is worth roughly $5 billion to the state’s economy, providing direct full-time employment for some 3,000 Nebraskans. To quote the study, “the effects on Nebraska’s economy and rural areas have been both sustained and substantial.”
The value of Nebraska’s ethanol industry isn’t limited to ethanol production. The dried distillers grains generated through the ethanol production process have become an import feed stock for Nebraska’s livestock sector, boosting Nebraska’s ability to feed cattle and, no doubt, contributing to Nebraska’s ascent to being the number one cattle feeding state in the nation.
But there is more. In addition to building agriculture markets, creating jobs, and boosting the state’s economy, it’s also helped decrease our reliance on imported oil and contributed to cleaner air. For all those reasons, we need more ethanol, not less. Having the EPA meet the targets established by Congress is the place to begin; anything short of that is clearly a step in the wrong direction.
In the coming weeks and months Nebraska Farm Bureau will be zeroed in on working with both Congress and the Administration to make sure we’re taking full advantage of our renewable fuel sources.
As we move our state forward in producing the food, fuel, and fiber that we all need, we’ll continue to look for ways to grow our state and to make life better for both rural and urban Nebraskans.