Ethanol Facts: Agriculture
Feeding the World, Fueling a nation
Ethanol provides a vital value-added market for corn and other commodities, providing an economic boost to rural America. Demand created by ethanol production increases the price a farmer receives for grain.
FACT: Tremendous increases in the productivity of U.S. farmers have ensured ample supplies of grain are available for domestic and international use as food, feed and fuel. Because growers are getting more output per acre than ever before, less land is needed to satisfy demand for food, feed and fuel. One-third of every bushel of grain processed into ethanol is enhanced and returned to the animal feed market in the form of distillers grains, corn gluten feed or corn gluten meal. Click HERE for more information on ethanol co-products.
FACT: In 2014, America's farmers were busy harvesting a record corn crop of 14.2 billion bushels. Not only was it the first time in history that corn production surpassed 14 billion bushels, but farmers also topped 170 bushels per acre (bpa) as the national average yield for the first time ever. The average yield of 171 bpa was more than six bushels higher than the previous record set in 2009. In the early 1990s, average yields were in the 100-120 bpa range, and total corn production averaged about 7.5 billion bushels per year - roughly half of 2014's harvest. Record farm profits over the past decade - driven in large part by growth in corn ethanol demand - enabled farmers to re-invest in new technologies and equipment, which in turn led to unprecedented gains in productivity and efficiency.
FACT: Today, more than 75% of the nation's dry mill ethanol biorefinieries extract corn distillers oil during the production process, a product that is sold into the feed market or used to produce biodiesel.
FACT: By increasing the demand for corn, and thus raising corn prices, ethanol helps to lower federal farm program costs. In the past six years, the price of corn has been above the cost of production, meaning farmers have been earning their income from the marketplace, not the government. Federal payments to corn farmers in 2012 were among the lowest in the last 25 years and 82% lower than payments in 2006.
FACT: Ethanol production does not reduce the amount of food available for human consumption. A record crob and yield in 2014 sent corn prices to four-year lows, and more grain was available globally for food and feed use than ever before. In fact, less than 3% of the growing global grain supply was used for ethanol. Importantly, ethanol is produced from field corn fed to livestock, not sweet corn fed to humans. A modern dry-mill ethanol refinery produces approximately 2.8 gallons of ethanol and 17 pounds of highly valuable feed co-products (distillers grains) from one bushel of corn. Importantly, ethanol production utilizes only the starch portion of the corn kernel, which is abundant and of low value. The remaining vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber are sold as high-value livestock feed. An increasing amount of ethanol is produced from nontraditional feedstocks such as waste products from the beverage, food and forestry industries. In the very near future we will also produce ethanol from agricultural residues such as rice straw, sugar cane bagasse and corn stover, municipal solid waste, and energy crops such as switchgrass.
Last Updated March 2015