Report highlights impact of Iowa’s ethanol industry

By Erin Voegele | March 22, 2016

A recent study has shown that while the renewable fuels industry continues to be a strong driver of Iowa’s economy, its impact took a small step backwards in 2015 due to reductions in renewable fuel standard (RFS).

The study, authored by John Urbanchuk of ABF Economics and commissioned by the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, four that Iowa’s renewable fuels industry, including ethanol and biodiesel, supported nearly 43,000 jobs throughout the state economy last year while generating nearly $2.3 billion in household income. The industry also accounted for approximately $4.6 billion, or 3.5 percent of Iowa GDP. When compared to 2014, GDP was down 5.6 percent, with jobs down 8.8 percent and income down 11.6 percent.

The ethanol industry alone supported approximately 39,592 jobs, nearly $2.07 billion in household earnings, and nearly $4.3 billion in GDP, along with $7.05 billion in purchases. The biodiesel industry supported an estimated 3,059 jobs, $198.1 million in household earnings, $344.3 million in GDP, and $689 million in purchases.

According to the report, the Iowa ethanol industry currently takes in 1.4 billion bushels of corn, which equates to 57 percent of the state’s corn crop. At 2015 Iowa farm gate prices, this amounts to $5.2 billion of revenue for Iowa corn farmers. The report indicates that expenditures for corn feedstock by Iowa ethanol producers fell 7.6 percent when compared to 2014 levels due to lower prices.

The report also notes Iowa’s ethanol industry posted a 3.8 percent increase in output last year, with the state’s 43 operating ethanol plants producing at an annual rate of slightly more than 4 billion gallons. The state accounted for 27 percent of total U.S. output.

“The U.S. ethanol industry experienced another record-breaking year in 2015, despite a challenging economic and regulatory environment,” Urbanchuk said.

“Iowa is the leading producer of ethanol in the United States,” said Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad.  “We have been disappointed by the EPA’s unwillingness to restore a robust renewable fuel standard.  This study shows how important renewable fuels are for the future of our Iowa economy.”

“Renewable fuels continue to be a bedrock of our Iowa economy, as this study shows,” Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds added.  “However, the drop in farmland values, farm income and commodity prices is directly being impacted by a reduction in the renewable fuel standard.  Gov. Branstad and I have called on the EPA to take action repeatedly to provide consumers choices at the pump, create jobs and increase income for Iowa families and reduce our dependency on foreign oil.”

“While Iowa’s ethanol and biodiesel industries continue to power the state’s economy, it’s disappointing that those impacts took a small step backwards last year,” stated Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Executive Director Monte Shaw. “What may be as equally frustrating is the missed opportunity to really grow Iowa’s economy. When the EPA reduced the statutory RFS levels, it reduced our ability to grow ethanol and biodiesel production, to grow forward-looking investments into new technologies, to grow farm income and to grow Iowa jobs.”

A full copy of the report can be downloaded from the IRFA website