N.D. Ethanol Council starts check-off program

By Luke Geiver | April 15, 2010
Posted April 23, 2010

The North Dakota Ethanol Council (NDEC) has established a new ‘check-off' program, reserving a portion of the state's ethanol production profits for future ethanol promotion. For every gallon of ethanol produced or sold in the state, three one-hundredths of one cent will be put towards research, education programs, promotion and market development for the industry. The Council projects an annual budget equaling $100,000.

Jeff Zueger, NDEC chairman and Blue Flint Ethanol general manager, said the program first had to gain the support of the ethanol producers in the state to create both the Council and the check-off program. The North Dakota Ethanol Council includes representatives from all of the state's major ethanol producers, including ADM Corn Processing, Walhalla; Blue Flint Ethanol, Underwood; Hankinson Renewable Energy, Hankinson; Red Trail Energy, LLC, Richardton; and Tharaldson Ethanol Plant, Casselton. After discussing with the legislature about the purpose, method of funding and objectives of the Council, Zueger said they were successful in getting a bill to create the Council passed into law.

N.D. Gov. John Hoeven also supported the program. "North Dakota's agricultural economy and rural communities have directly benefited from the growth of the ethanol industry in our state," Hoeven said. "Ethanol creates jobs and boosts income for our farmers."

To collect the three one-hundredths of a cent, Zueger said the payment will be collected quarterly using a production affidavit that each plant submits to verify production and make payment. The council, he said, will administer all of the financial activities with state oversight.

"A main priority will be to ensure that we keep the plants that are already here and producing a renewable low cost fuel from our farmer's products," Zueger said. "Ethanol in North Dakota represents over $300 million dollars of economic impact and approximately 10,000 jobs in the state. We have to be sure we don't lose this." Zueger said the Council also wants to grow ethanol use in the state. With a 6 percent usage rate in the state's fuel, improving that number will be a goal of the Council. Before that happens, the Council has already been working with the state's delegates such as Sen. Kent Conrad and Rep. Earl Pomeroy to extend the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC). "We have also been working with the N.D. Department of Commerce and N.D. Corn Growers on the advancement of the state's blender pump initiative to place into service 400 blender pumps in 2010," Zueger said.

The Council has already started planning for the future by conducting strategic meetings, to lay out goals and objectives. "We have so many areas of opportunity for our industry that this will help us prioritize our efforts and determine which areas of production, education, marketing and development we should focus on." The Council has hired Deana Wiese, vice president of Clearwater Communications, to act as the executive director. Zueger said Wiese's impact has already been evident and they hope to continue informing others on the benefits of ethanol. "We need to get that message out in the public so they can make an informed decision when they pull up to the pump to fuel their vehicle."