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Ethanol trying to get its fill in a drought year

Published: Oct. 22, 2021 at 6:12 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - North Dakota’s economy has dealt with two major issues all year: the drought and supply chain shortages.

For the ethanol industry, both have taken their toll on production.

As farmers pull their crops from the fields, the next question is: who wants it?

Roughly half of North Dakota’s corn goes to ethanol production, but one of the worst droughts in recorded history has forced many plants to look to other parts of the country to get what they need.

You don’t normally see a three-story high stack of corn on the front lawn, but that’s the scene at Red Trail Energy in Richardton.

It’s a busy time year for corn growers and their customers.

“We started piling corn to give them farmers an opportunity to finish their work so we don’t have long waiting lines and that type of thing. And working with them to keep them trucks and the harvest moving,” said Red Trail Energy CEO Gerald Bachmeier.

This corn isn’t coming from the normal source.

Red Trail normally gets 65-70% of its corn from the western parts of the state.

Due to the drought, they were only able to get half of that.

But farmers were able to supply more than what was expected.

“They know what to do generally. Now, can we get better technology? Better uses? Yes. But I tell you, we produced a crop with hardly any rain in parts of the state, which wouldn’t happen 30 years ago if we wouldn’t have the conservation practices we had,” said North Dakota Farmers Union President Mark Watne.

But still, these trucks are bringing in corn from around the Midwest.

Those transportation costs and the rising cost of corn are adding up.

Bachmeier said the plant shut down a few times just this year alone when corn prices were at their highest.

So they used that time for advance construction for their carbon capture installations.

He added that he has no concerns about being fully operational this winter

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