Ethanol industry may rebound this year

Producers stand to benefit as farmers make up lost ground in corn fields.

By Benzinga May 22, 2013 10:34AM

Corn field © Bob Rashid, Brand X, CorbisBy Jim Probasco

Until last week, only 15% of the corn crop in Iowa (the leading corn growing state in the nation) had been planted.

Then came a week of good weather. Iowa farmers responded by launching an invasion of farm machinery into their fertile fields. As of Sunday, 71% of the corn crop had been planted according to The Associated Press.

The same scene played out in all of the key grain states to the extent that the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in its weekly crop progress update that 71% of the corn crop had been sown in those states as well. This figure isn't far off from the 79% average farmers planted by this time over the past five years.

State by state, the numbers are impressive. In addition to the 71% of corn planted in Iowa, 75% of this year's seed has been sown in Illinois, along with 70% of the crop in Missouri, Kansas, and Minnesota.

Tuesday's Daily Livestock Report, commenting on the unprecedented planting of 43% of the anticipated corn crop in one week said, "When accounting for the increase in corn acres that are expected to be planted this year, (last week) is by far the biggest number of acres ever planted in a one-week window."

Last year, 95% of the corn crop had been planted by now. However, last year featured a warm early spring. This year has not been nearly so favorable.

Farmers and commodity traders are not the only people paying attention to potential corn yields this year. Corn yields affect another industry in a big way. And that industry is ethanol.

Last year's drought conditions, lower corn yields, the resulting higher corn prices along with generally moderate gasoline prices, made ethanol so expensive that producers cut back for the first time in 16 years, according to Bloomberg.

As planting conditions improved this year, and the likelihood of a bumper corn crop increased, the doom and gloom surrounding ethanol has started to lift. More corn means lower prices per bushel. That translates to lower production costs, and all of a sudden, ethanol is competitive again.

All good news indeed to companies like Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), the nation's number-one ethanol producer. Revenue in the ethanol division of the company grew 7.7% year over year.

Another beneficiary is Valero Energy (VLO). Valero is number-three in ethanol production with a 1.2-billion gallon annual capacity and reported gross margins of $0.42 per gallon in the first quarter of 2013, compared with $0.34 per gallon in the same period last year.

Combined, Archer Daniels Midland and Valero are the two largest publicly traded ethanol producers in the country.

More From Benzinga

May 22, 2013 3:27PM

There are no subsidies on corn or on ethanol in the United States.  The corn from which ethanol is made is field corn, not sweet corn, which is the kind you would eat at your dinner table.


You may get 20% fewer miles per gallon from ethanol, but you pay 25% less for it at the pump, and the price gap is only expected to increase!  Your car and our society will benefit because ethanol is an oxygenate. Oxygenates are used by fuel blenders to increase the oxygen content of gasoline, which improves combustion efficiency and eliminates emissions of certain atmospheric pollutants. According to the EPA, 10 percent  ethanol/gasoline mix can reduce volatile organic compounds by 9.7%, carbon monoxide by 36% and exhaust benzene by 38.9%.  BTW, your car will run equally as cool with ethanol blended with the gasoline.


One of the byproducts from making ethanol is animal feed.  Farmers would much rather feed their animals dried distillers grains or DDGs than straight field corn.  A study from the Agricultural and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M said “…corn prices have had little to do with rising food costs.” They also said that “Important food items like bread, eggs, and milk have high prices that are largely unrelated to ethanol or corn prices, but correspond to fundamental supply/demand relationships in the world.”

May 22, 2013 11:50AM
Call your Congressman to stop the production of ethanol. It is the most damaging to small engines and gas/fuel systems across the nation causing untold costs in repairs and we shouldn't be paying farmers with our tax dollars to produce fuel from food. Feed the world rather than produce fuel from food. This is a nonpartisan responsible issue. Both parties are equally guilty promoting this billion $$$ subsidy to their constituents - which are mostly huge corporations like Archer Daniels Midland .

You also get 20% better gas mileage with non-ethanol gas and your car's engine will run cooler and last longer.     
May 22, 2013 5:31PM
SO, MoneyMake for ADM, all that land being used for up for field corn could be seeded for sweet corn to feed people.. right?? Not to mention the costs for the ethanol production process as well. The subsidy may be gone (in 2012 after 30 years of multiple billions $$ of tax payer money adding to the national debt - which we are still  paying for - so the subsidy really isn't gone - is it?)  but the money politicians get from ADM and other large agri-business firms is tremendous to lobby for the continual ethanol production that is no longer needed. The modern day fuel injected cars no longer need ethanol to produce better burning fuels and produce less emissions. I trust Popular Mechanics more than your stats. Read Popular Mechanics on ethanol - they call it junk - just like your stats. The extra 25% percent cost for 100% gas is only a 5% loss overall - and would probably be much less once ethanol was phased out. I am sure ADM doesn't want CNG or LNG (natural gas) either... so their lobby has slowed down a change to a better fuel. Read Popular Mechanics on Ethanol - you will be enlightened.     
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