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Ethanol Industry Offers Agribusiness Potential

  • Thursday, 08 December 2016 09:41

Herald and Review

December 7, 2016

By Chris Lusvardi

DECATUR — Ethanol producers including Archer Daniels Midland Co. are hoping to find ways to increase usage of the product domestically and abroad.

Ethanol can continue to remain competitive, primarily because of its price advantage and benefits to air quality, Craig Willis, president of the ethanol business in ADM's corn processing business unit.

Willis spoke Tuesday during an agribusiness update seminar sponsored by Sikich held at the Decatur Conference Center & Hotel.

Having more retailers offer blends of E15 fuel is an important step, Willis said.

“We've worked several years to start the ball rolling downhill,” Willis said. “It's a domino effect as more E15 goes into the market. It affects everybody up and down the chain.”

Willis said 10 chains currently offer E15 at gas pumps in about 4,800 locations nationwide.

Exports continue to be significant as ethanol competes with other products around the world, he said.

Although gasoline prices have recently dropped and remained lower than a few years ago, Willis said it has led to more driving.

“Any growth in gas demand is more demand for ethanol,” Willis said.

The status of the ethanol industry was one of the updates related to agribusiness provided during the seminar.

The Midwest Inland Port continues to be the primary focus of local economic development efforts, said Ryan McCrady, Economic Development Corporation of Decatur and Macon County president. Marketing efforts are under way to make Decatur an attractive place for businesses to grow, he said.

The ADM intermodal ramp is at the center of those efforts, with users coming from surrounding areas including Springfield, Centralia and Peoria, McCrady said. That can lead to more job creation in Decatur as the ramp gets more use, he said.

“The benefit is it brings the costs down for everybody,” McCrady said. “Regional collaboration is the wave of the future.”

A portion of Decatur's work force, about 10,400 workers, is driving in from other counties, McCrady said.

Work force availability and quality, transportation networks and quality of life are all factors for decision makers looking to attract and retain employees, each of which McCrady said Decatur can provide.

The Midwest Inland Port and ethanol are among the big ideas and opportunities available in agriculture, said Tom Bayer, Sikich's partner in charge of agribusiness services. Bayer discussed various opportunities for tax credits, including for farmers, that can help businesses reach desired profit numbers.

“The business of farming has gotten more complicated,” Bayer said. “A lot of risk is out there.”

Commodity prices have made margins thinner, which Bayer said means farmers need to look at all opportunities.

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