Joni Ernst Green Plains Shenandoah Tour

Iowa Senator Joni Ernst (right) tours the Shenandoah Green Plains ethanol facility while visit with Green Plains CEO Todd Becker (left)

(Shenandoah) — Iowa Senator Joni Ernst says the administration has to do more to support ethanol facilities, especially as the industry faces a demand loss due to COVID-19.

As part of her 99-county tour, Ernst visited Green Plains in Shenandoah Thursday to discuss biofuels-related issues with company officials. After a tour of the plant, Ernst says the Trump Administration needs to be doing everything they can to help out the industry at this time.

"We just really need to be pushing for some of the ethanol facilities right now," said Ernst.  "(Green Plains CEO) Todd (Becker) and I had a wonderful discussion about the administration following through on the promises that they had made and making sure that we are converting some of the E-10 pumps and re-labeling them so that we can utilize E-15.  We need to get more of our ethanol products out there as the administration promised.  So, we're going to keep pushing EPA and the White House on this."

Last week, Ernst questioned EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler during a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing over COVID-19’s impact on the ethanol industry. Ernst says Wheeler’s responses have lit a renewed fire in both her and fellow Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley’s office to push the EPA on ethanol issues.

"Since hearing the really unsatisfactory answers that Andrew Wheeler gave us on the non-progress coming out of EPA, we now go back and push him on these issues," said Ernst.  "We need him to explain clearly to me why we don't have those tanks re-labeled.  Why is this not happening? Just simply stating, 'we haven't had time,' that's not a good enough answer."

In addition to touring the ethanol production facility, Ernst got to look at a new portion of the facility that is producing a higher protein animal feed from the spent corn kernel. Green Plains CEO Todd Becker says the product is more sought after than the traditional dried distillers grain that comes out of ethanol facilities.

"It's filling this hole between soybean meal and fish meal, between 48% and 60% protein," said Becker.  "Nothing really exists at that high quality. That's what we're making out there, and we are sold out.  It's a ready-made pet food today.  Everything we make out there is going into products like that, which would never happen in distillers grains, ever."

The new system is part of a $38 million investment the company has made in the Shenandoah location, which includes a research facility to develop feed for the aquaculture industry. Becker says the expansion means more jobs for the area.

"It starts with construction jobs and from there it goes to operator jobs and management jobs," said Becker.  "They are all high-paying jobs in an ethanol plant -- they just are.  In the aquaculture, there's PHDs out there.  We're attracting people into the county here that would have never thought about coming to Iowa, number one, and Shenandoah, number two.  We're doing things out here that have never been done in ethanol plants.  This is going to be a model for what we roll out across the country."

The first shipments of the new high-protein feed left the Shenandoah facility in April averaging about 20% more protein than traditional distillers grain.