IOWA FALLS, July 17, 2005, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier via CropChoice.com:
Iowa's biodiesel industry is about to explode, which
could lead to higher prices for local soybean farmers.
The state's three biodiesel plants now consume about
18 million bushels of soybeans, producing about 25 million
gallons of the renewable fuel a year. But with one plant
under construction, another to break ground this month
and five more in the planning stages, state soybean
officials estimate the industry will eventually consume
more than 200 million bushels, or about 40 percent of
last year's crop.
Soybean prices could increase 17 cents per bushel on
average as a result, according to Karen Anderson, director
of marketing for the Iowa State Soybean Association.
Judging by average soybean prices the last 10 years,
that's good news to farmers like Dave Strickler of rural
Grundy Center. With cash prices often in the high $4
per bushel to low $6 per bushel range, farmers have
had a tough time turning any kind of profit without
For example, last year prices averaged $5.05 per bushel,
according to Iowa Ag Statistics. Iowa State University
estimated the cost of production, on average, for soybeans
following corn was $6.57 per bushel.
"The impact should be more demand. And with the
better demand should be a better prices," said
Strickler, president of the Grundy County Soybean Association.
ISA's confidence in higher prices is bolstered by recent
legislation supporting biodiesel and other renewable
fuels. Congress passed a two-year tax credit --- $1
per gallon for 100 percent agri-biodiesel or 50 cents
per gallon for other biodiesel such as animal fat ---
to give biodiesel equal footing with ethanol. It took
effect in January and is expected to be renewed.
The Senate and House of Representatives are currently
negotiating a new Energy Bill, which lawmakers hope
to have completed by the end of the month. Each have
passed their own versions, but the Senate's included
a renewable fuels standard of 8 billion gallons a year,
effectively doubling the use of ethanol and biodiesel
in the country by 2012.
Whether it makes the final version is unknown.
"We can reverse our heavy dependence on foreign
oil by investing in renewable resources right here at
home," said Sen. Tom Harkin shortly after the bill
passed. "This will mean new value-added markets
for farmers, increased opportunities for rural businesses
and tens of thousands of new jobs in the emerging bioeconomy."
Cargill is expected to break ground later this month
on a 37.5 million gallon biodiesel plant in Iowa Falls,
next to its soybean crushing facility. Soybean oil that
once went to food and export markets will be redirected
to the plant.
Iowa's three operating biodiesel plants are West Central
Cooperative in Ralston, Soy Solutions in Milford and
AGP in Sergeant Bluff. By the time the 25-million-gallon
plant in Wall Lake comes on line later this year and
Iowa Falls starts making biodiesel next April, Iowa's
capacity will more than triple.
"We look at this as a positive for the state,
and Iowa Falls is a major piece of the puzzle,"
Cargill officials said the Iowa Falls facility currently
crushes between 30 million to 35 million bushels of
soybeans a year, making soybean meal for livestock feed
and soybean oil. Even though more beans won't be purchased
after the plant is built, officials said farmers still
Jim Sutter, vice president of Cargill's grain and oilseed
supply chain, said they and other grain processors have
had to close or temporarily shutdown crushing plants
due to unfavorable market conditions. The addition of
the biodiesel refinery should protect the Iowa Falls
"This further secures Iowa Falls as a market for
farmers ... to keep it running," Sutter said.
Iowa's leading grain economist, Bob Wisner of Iowa
State University, also said competition for soybeans
from Iowa Falls, processors in Cedar Rapids and the
Mississippi River export market could bode well for
farmers. With Iowa's ethanol industry booming as well,
he said buyers may have to bid up beans to keep farmers
from planting too much corn.
While the 17-cent figure provided by ISA is a statewide
average, Wisner said for farmers close to Iowa Falls,
that could be a few cents low. On the other hand, there
may be times the pendulum swings the other way, he said.
"With new demand and competition for crop acres,
that should pull the prices up," Wisner said.
Grundy County is situated between Iowa Falls and Cedar
Rapids --- both have corn and soybean processors ---
and is home to some of the best farm ground in the state.
An ethanol plant recently opened in Wellsburg as well.
With high diesel fuel prices, selling close to home
Strickler said truckers charge about 12 cents per bushel
to haul to Iowa Falls, while it costs 20 to 22 cents
to Cedar Rapids. It costs farmers, like Strickler, who
own their own semis, considerably less.
"It cuts down our costs by staying closer to home,"
said Mark Eilers, who farms near Holland.
Sutter said there will be no changes as far as delivering
soybeans to the Iowa Falls Cargill facility once the
biodiesel plant is up and running, other than maybe
the price. Contracts and cash bids will still be offered.