Ethanol plant not accepting corn

The board of directors of Siouxland Energy Cooperative, a producer-owned company located in Sioux Center, announced Monday, Sept. 16, that it will idle production at its ethanol production facility until further notice.

REGIONAL—Farmers may have finally reached their boiling point with the President Donald Trump administration.

During a media call Thursday, Sept. 26, four Midwest farmers with ties to the renewable fuels industry — including Daryl Haack and Kelly Nieuwenhuis of rural Primghar — shared candid views about Trump’s ag policies.

Haack, a board member for Little Sioux Corn Processors near Marcus and treasurer of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, said he and other board members told U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) last month they were wavering on supporting Trump.

“We’re all staunch Republicans and they were real unsure about how they were going to vote in the coming election; they were thinking maybe not voting for our current president,” Haack said.

“That’s a concern that he needs to be feeling and the rest of the senators and representatives need to be feeling.”

Haack and the rest of the panel’s issues with the president were about his Aug. 7 decision to give the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency clearance to approve 31 small-refinery exemptions waivers.

They said that action caused a 4 billion gallon shortfall in the renewable fuels market.

“This demand needs to be restored soon in order to keep more plants from shutting down,” Haack said.

On Sept. 16, Siouxland Energy Cooperative outside of Sioux Center announced it was idling production.

Nieuwenhuis, who sits on the Siouxland Energy board, said it was the hardest decision the group has ever made in its nearly 20-year history.

Siouxland Energy was the second Iowa ethanol plant within a 60-mile radius to shutter following the small-refinery exemption approvals.

The first was Plymouth Energy by Merrill while POET Biorefining of Sioux Falls, SD, which operates a plant near Ashton, cut production in half in Iowa.

Nieuwenhuis said Siouxland Energy is still paying all 42 employees, but without drastic action from the White House, there is no timetable on when or if the plant can reopen.

“A year ago, our plant was debt-free and we had some cash for working capital,” Nieuwenhuis said. “We pretty much burned through our cash in the last few months. We now have some loans at the banks.”

Later in the call, Haack reaffirmed that they were holding the president directly accountable for the state of affairs in the ethanol industry

“As I said, our board at our ethanol plant voted for him three years ago during the election,” he said. “When we talked about it a month ago, we probably weren’t going to do that.”