There’s good news for the nearly three dozen ethanol plants operating in Iowa. Bob Dinneen, spokesman for the Renewable Fuels Association, says a byproduct of ethanol production is gaining popularity worldwide.

“We just use the stalks for the ethanol production, but we’re leaving behind a very high-value, high-protein feed product that is then used by livestock and poultry markets across this country and importantly, internationally,” Dinneen says.

Several million metric tons of the byproduct, known as dried distiller’s grain (DDG), were exported last year to China, Canada, and Europe. “It’s concentrated protein, so there’s a lot of interest in it,” Dinneen says. “Probably 15-to-20-percent of the DDG we’ve produced (in the U.S.) is going to be exported and we could probably do more.”

Ethanol itself has been gaining popularity in the export market as well, according to Dinneen. He says, two years ago, 1.2 billion gallons of ethanol were exported to Europe, Brazil, Canada and even oil producing areas of the United Arab Emirates.

“Yes, we are producing and selling to the Middle East. Those markets are also increasingly important. We only exported about 700 million gallons last year, but we hope to increase that amount this year,” Dinneen said.

Iowa leads the nation in ethanol production — producing more than 3.7 billion gallons annually.

By Karla James & Pat Curtis