Opinion by Tracey OlsonJeff ZuegerRyan CarterJodi Johnson, and Keshav Rajpal

We are extremely proud to represent the ethanol industry in 2023. Leadership from farmers, entrepreneurs, and policy makers gave this industry its beginning decades ago. And it is leadership from farmers, entrepreneurs, and policy makers that will now extend the life and strength of this industry in a market that is asking for low-carbon sustainable renewable fuels.

Today, the ethanol industry grinds anywhere from 40% to 60% of the corn grown in North Dakota. We contribute nearly $1.7 billion annually to the state’s economy, and the industry supports thousands of jobs. Thanks to an innovative private sector and supportive state government, our production capacity is more than five times what it was a decade ago. Perhaps most importantly, it has provided additional value to the state’s farmers—creating a lift of $.50 to $1 for every bushel. This needs to be celebrated.

To continue the industry’s strength and growth, we need access to new markets that are requiring low carbon fuels—from emerging and expanding North American markets to feedstock for sustainable aviation fuel. North Dakota is already leading the way. Red Trail Energy in Richardton has been capturing and storing the CO2 it produces for well over a year. They were the first-Class VI injection well approved by a state regulator with EPA primacy. The Blue Flint plant just started injecting its CO2 into the ground last week. Tharaldson Ethanol has signed onto the Summit Carbon Solutions project, which will capture CO2 from various Midwest ethanol plants and store it in central North Dakota

These CO2 projects and new markets provide North Dakota agriculture with tremendous advantages. We believe that storing CO2 is only the beginning. New technologies are being developed to utilize CO2 for products such as anhydrous ammonia and urea, as well as green methanol and other low-carbon chemicals. These CO2 projects and new markets will bring stability and growth to our industry and the growers that supply us with corn.

We all have to start supporting these carbon projects. Farmers, landowners, ethanol producers, counties, state agencies and others need to work together to better understand the importance of these projects to agriculture in our state. We are committed to getting these projects operational so that our state can continue to export the goods we produce. We invite those who want to see agriculture flourish in our state to learn more about and support these projects. At the end of the day, the ethanol industry stands firmly in support of our members and their projects to bring more value to North Dakota.