State ag chief urges campaign for ethanol

LAMBERTON – Minnesota Department of Agriculture Commissioner David Frederickson visited the Highwater Ethanol plant in Lamberton on Tuesday as part of a tour to encourage a letter writing campaign to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concerning proposed reductions in the ethanol mandate.

“In my days in the Legislature, I learned when they get a dozen letters on any issue, they pay attention,” Frederickson said.

According to a form letter supplied by Highwater staff, the EPA proposes to reduce the 2014 ethanol requirement under the Renewable Fuel Standard to 13 billion gallons.

The current RFS standard requires 14.4 billion gallons be introduced into the transportation fuel system in 2014.

“It’s wrong-headed, wrongly-directed, and that’s the message we have to send,” Frederickson said. “And that outrage ought to be expressed in letters.”

According to Frederickson, the ethanol plant in Brewster, his previous stop before Lamberton, employs more than 80 workers and has a payroll of $4 million.

“We originally sold the ethanol mandate on four points: clean air, adding jobs to rural Minnesota, reducing dependence on foreign oil and adding value to our product (corn),” Frederickson said.

Frederickson and Highwater CEO Brian Kletscher urged everyone present to send in the form letters with a personal message added, to pass them around their community and give them to the truck drivers delivering grain to the plant.

“Our plant started operating in 2009,” Kletscher said. “We’re licensed for 59.5 million gallons of ethanol a year. That requires 20 million bushels, which we mostly get from a 40-mile radius around the plant. We employ 39 full-time workers. We believe we’ve pushed the corn market anywhere from seven to 12 cents a bushel, that’s a $2 to $3 million push on the local economy. One-third of that corn goes back to livestock and poultry feed.”

Also present was George Goblish, president of Minnesota Soybean Growers, speaking against proposed cuts to the 10 percent biodiesel mandate set to go into effect in July 2014.

“Right now, biodiesel is the only thing keeping three soy crushing plants in the state alive,” Goblish said.