United Group Insurance

Senator Ernst tours Shenandoah ethanol plant, learns about new product

Ag/Outdoor, News

May 29th, 2020 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) — Iowa Senator Joni Ernst toured the Green Plains ethanol plant in Shenandoah Thursday to discuss biofuels-related issues with company officials. Ernst says the E-P-A Administrator’s responses during a Senate committee hearing on COVID-19’s impact on the ethanol industry has renewed the fire in both her and Senator Chuck Grassley’s office to push the E-P-A on ethanol issues. “Since hearing the really unsatisfactory answers that Andrew Wheeler gave us on the non-progress coming out of E-P-A, we now go back and push him on these issues,” Ernst said. “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.”

Ernst got to look at a new portion of the facility that produces a higher protein animal feed from the spent corn kernel. Green Plains C-E-O 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 percent protein,” Becker says. “Nothing really exists of that high quality out there — so 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 dollar 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 starts with operator jobs and management jobs. They are all high-paying jobs in an ethanol plant — they just are. In the aquaculture, there’s P-H-Ds out there,” according to Becker. “We’re attracting people into the county here that would have never thought about coming to Iowa, number one, and Shenandoah, number two.”

He says this is the start of a process that is going to grow. “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,” Becker said. The first shipments of the new high-protein feed left the Shenandoah facility in April averaging about 20 percent more protein than traditional distillers grain.