February 27, 2013

Business Virtual Roundtable – Todd Becker

*The Business Leaders "Virtual Roundtable" discussion was gathered for the Spring 2013 CornsTalk publication. The responses of these business associates were consolidated for the publication, but you can find the full responses through this blog series.

ToddBeckerTodd Becker, President & Chief Executive Officer, Green Plains Renewable Energy, Omaha

How does Nebraska's strength in agriculture—and corn, livestock and ethanol specifically—influence your business/organization? How does the fact that you are located in Nebraska provide a competitive advantage or growth opportunities for you?

Nebraska’s leadership role in both corn and cattle production is a good fit for ethanol and for Green Plains. Distillers grains is a significant co-product of ethanol production and this high quality livestock feed has strong demand in Nebraska with the large feed lots located here. The close proximity of our plants in central Nebraska to these cattle feedlots provides Green Plains with an excellent market. Also the location of our Nebraska plants in the western corn belt enables us to be competitive in ethanol markets in the southwest and western parts of the U.S. as well.

What should Nebraska do to leverage its strength in agriculture to enhance economic vitality across the state—and position the state for long-term success in meeting global demand for food, feed and fuel?

Use more ethanol, demand E15 at your gas station. Nebraska produces over 2 billion gallons of ethanol each year, but only uses slightly better than half of the ethanol it could in the motor fuel Nebraskans buy. If you consider that Nebraska exports 97% of the ethanol produced in this state, it’s a shame that we are not doing more to consume this high octane fuel grown in Nebraska. Many studies have stated that ethanol keeps prices down at the pump and just think how much Nebraskans could save by using more ethanol.

What do you think Nebraska consumers—especially those in urban areas—need to better understand about Nebraska agriculture and your organization's relationship to agriculture?

Nebraska is a significant producer of various commodities with value added by companies like Green Plains. All Nebraskans should truly understand the economic impact of agriculture in this state. Our state is a leader in food, feed and fuel production and continues to be an innovator in agriculture. Nebraska’s economy has been stronger recently than other states because of the contribution of agriculture here.

How important is it that Nebraska corn farmers continue to invest in the future of their industry through their checkoff?

Investing in the industry is important for educating the public on what corn production means for Nebraska; the economy, the jobs, the farmer, where corn goes, etc. With corn yields in Nebraska up over 40% in the last 10 years, what does this mean? It’s allowed the opportunity for farmers to expand their market in which they sell their corn into. Without ethanol would we be producing as much corn as we do today? The answer is no, and it’s important for the public to understand that corn production has a place in food, feed and fuel and its impact on jobs and the economy.

What concerns you most about the future of agriculture in Nebraska? And what will it take to address those concerns?

If we didn’t know it before, this past year’s drought was a true testament to the importance of all Nebraska Ag producers working together. Farmers planted more corn than ever in Nebraska to meet the rising demand for food, feed and fuel. The drought was unfortunate and an uncontrollable circumstance that found many wanting to place the blame of the high cost of corn on ethanol. Through the entire renewable fuel standard waiver requests submitted to the EPA, the waiver was denied because it was clear that the change in the price of corn was related to the drought, not ethanol production. This was a wakeup call that all Ag related businesses need to work together and understand that we all have a place in Nebraska agriculture and through diverse markets we are supporting the farmers and each other in good times and bad.

Any other comments or perspectives regarding Nebraska agriculture that you wish to share.

As the world population continues to increase and protein diets continue to grow in popularity, demand for food and fuel will be bigger than ever. As a result, agriculture in Nebraska and in the U.S. will experience growth for years to come. Nebraska has the ability and should take a lead role in the global supply chain for feed, food and fuel. Green Plains is focused on harvesting all the energy available in a kernel of corn, and we plan on doing our part to help Nebraska and U.S. agriculture continue to be one of our economy’s bright spots now and in the future.

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