Report: Renewable fuels generates $11.7 billion in economic output in Minnesota

A new report details how renewable fuels like homegrown ethanol generates billions of dollars for the Minnesota economy and supports thousands of jobs.

According to the Fuels America study, the renewable fuels sector in Minnesota generates:

  • $11.7 billion in economic output annually
  • Supports 48,506 jobs
  • Generates $3 billion in annual wages
  • Contributes $1.1 billion each year in state and federal taxes

To break down the numbers by Minnesota congressional district, use this interactive map on the Fuels America website.

Nationally, renewable fuels drives $184.5 billion of economic output, supports over 852,000 jobs and generates $14.5 billion in annual tax revenue.

“This investment creates a ripple effect as supplier firms and employees re-spend throughout the economy,” the analysis concludes. You can read the study’s methodology here.

The study also confirms what we’ve known all along: Now is not the time to give into Big Oil and slash the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), reducing the amount of renewable ethanol blended into gasoline. Ethanol and other renewable fuels make too much of a positive impact on both the air we breathe and our economy to reverse course now.

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Domestic oil drilling isn’t stopping the annual summer gas price hike

The U.S. oil boom does not mean lower gas prices.

As we drill for more oil than ever before in the United States, gas prices are going up.

Yes, it’s that time of year again. The snow is melting, temperatures are rising, families are making summer vacation plans, people are driving more, and (conveniently) gas prices are spiking.

“Hold on a minute,” you might be saying. “We’re in the midst of a domestic oil boom. I thought that was supposed to lower gas prices?”

Despite messages you might hear from Big Oil companies (often delivered through their friends in Washington D.C. and the media), increased domestic drilling will not save you money at the pump.

According to this story from the Wall St. Journal, U.S. gasoline stockpiles are at their lowest for this time of year since 2011, which is driving up prices. Why are gas stockpiles low and prices up if we’re drilling for more oil here at home?

Because oil companies are exporting gas to other countries, creating a shortage in the U.S. and driving up prices again. From the Wall St. Journal story:

 …the retail price for a gallon of regular gasoline averaged $3.68 on Monday, up 4.2% from a year ago, according to the EIA. That is the highest price since March 2013. AAA had the average price on Monday at $3.67…Total petroleum exports, mostly gasoline and diesel, averaged about 3.6 million barrels a day last week, according to the EIA, up 25% from the same period last year.

So instead of delivering on the promise of lower gas prices with increased domestic drilling, Big Oil is just exporting more gas and once again inflating gas prices as families prepare to hit the road for a summer getaway.

It would have been nice if the Wall St. Journal provided some information and context in the story about the role homegrown ethanol and biofuels play in cutting prices at the pump. Or how now is not the time to slash the Renewable Fuel Standard and reduce the amount of ethanol blended in American gasoline.

Unfortunately, the Wall St. Journal is notorious for it’s blind hatred of ethanol, and is one of the main publications Big Oil counts on to spread misinformation and parrot talking points about American farmers and biofuels.

If you’re looking to save a few bucks at the pump on your family vacation this summer, fill up with higher blends of ethanol. There is a promotion in West Central Minnesota that prices E85 (a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline) at least $1 less than gasoline. Higher blends like E15 and E30 are now available in the Twin Cities.

You can get more details on where to buy higher ethanol blends in Minnesota at the American Lung Association of Minnesota’s Clean Air Choice page.

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5 corn farmers elected to MCGA Recruiter Hall of Fame

MCGA Hall of Fame

The first MCGA Recruiter Hall of Fame Class. Top: Doug Toreen and Mickey Peterson. Bottom: Richard Peterson, Robert Nelsen and Gayle Bergstrom.

The Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) recently christened its new Recruiter Hall of Fame by inducting five corn farmers into the inaugural class.

There are almost 7,000 members in MCGA’s ranks. These five hall-of-fame inductees have played a major role in recruiting new members and helping MCGA become the strong, grassroots voice of corn farmers it is today:

  • Doug Toreen, Renville County. Doug has recruited 1,099 MCGA members and belongs to the Renville County Corn & Soybean Growers Association.
  • Myron “Mickey” Peterson, Renville County. Mickey has recruited 999 members, serves on the Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council, and belongs to the Renville County Corn and Soybean Growers Association.
  • Robert Nelsen, Murray County. Robert has recruited 557 MCGA members and belongs to the Murray County Corn and Soybean Growers Association.
  • Gayle Bergstrom, Adams. Gayle has recruited 432 MCGA members and belongs to the Mower County Corn and Soybean Growers Association.
  • Richard Peterson, Jackson County. Richard has recruited 412 members, serves on the Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council, and belongs to the Jackson County Corn and Soybean Growers Association.

“The voices of corn farmers are louder when we unite and speak as one instead of only speaking as individuals,” said MCGA President Ryan Buck. “I want to thank these five Hall of Fame inductees for working tirelessly over the years to recruit new members and help make MCGA the strong grassroots organization that it is today.”

Nominees for the MCGA Recruiter Hall of Fame must have recruited over 300 members and been an active recruiter for at least five years. MCGA’s Producer Services team selected inductees via secret ballot. Each inductee receives $500 cash, an MCGA Hall of Fame jacket and a plaque.

Congrats to Doug, Myron, Robert, Gayle and Richard! Thank you for all you do to make sure the voices of Minnesota’s corn farmers are heard loud and clear.

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A quick update on DNR irrigation permits

The Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) remains engaged with lawmakers and agencies about issues surrounding farming and water sources. As fewer people are elected to office with an agriculture background, it’s important that corn farmers continue to have a seat at the table as regulations are debated and laws are introduced that impact Minnesota’s farms.

Recently, farmers have expressed concerns about irrigation issues, specifically the irrigation permitting process with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Whether you’re looking to drill a new well for irrigation or move an existing well, here is a quick summary of the steps you need to take:

  • Preliminary construction approval through the DNR is required before drilling a well that will withdraw more than 10,000 gallons of water per day or 1 million gallons per year. You can apply for preliminary approval using this form.
  • Once you receive preliminary approval, you still need an irrigation waters appropriation permit. Each water source you use requires a separate permit. After preliminary approval, the well can be drilled and test pump data submitted via the waters appropriation permit form found here.

It’s also important to remember:

  • A permit with the Department of Health is also required. This is typically filed by your well driller.and is different than the permit required by DNR. It is up to the individual farmer to apply for both the preliminary approval and final permit from DNR.
  • If you move an existing well, you do not need to apply for a new permit, but you do need to update your existing permit. Don’t forget to update your permit. It will save you potential hassle in the future.
  • The above links bring you directly to the preliminary approval form and permit form. Both can be also be accessed, along with several other forms and documents, at DNR’s Permitting and Reporting System page.
  • If you have any questions about the permitting process, contact your area hydrologist.

Concerns from the farming community about the irrigation permitting process revolve around a couple of issues:

  • DNR says it will approve or deny permit applications within 45-150 days, according to Alan Peterson of the Minnesota Irrigators Association. Many farmers are experiencing wait times longer than that. It is important that applications are reviewed in a timely manner so farmers can plan accordingly.
  • Peterson also said there is uncertainty in how DNR may approve or revoke a permit. Legislation being discussed in the Minnesota Senate aims to clear up some of that confusion, and hopefully make the reasons for denying or revoking a permit more transparent.

MCGA continues to monitor recent developments concerning irrigation and will continue working on behalf of corn farmers to make sure their voices are part of all farm-related policy discussion, including irrigation.

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Talking fast and planting straight

Joe Maidl

Joe Maidl

The Minnesota Corn Growers Association launched its “Minnesota Farm Team” campaign last week to highlight how corn farmers take care of our land, water and soil. will profile a different member of the Farm Team every day this week.

To Joe Maidl, a nice, straight crop row is more than an aesthetic satisfaction — it saves time, money, fuel and lowers farming’s carbon footprint.

Maidl farms in Lafayette: “It’s the middle or the south central or what you might call the belly button of the state,” says Maidl. “I farm with my cousin Leon and we share machinery, which makes it all work well. We raise corn, soybeans, sweet corn and peas.”

“It’s really neat how much we know now, where before we were wasting seed,” says Maidl about his and his cousin’s investments in a GPS-synced precision planter and combine. “This stuff gets everything down to a T. Being a realtor and an auctioneer, I was always on the phone while I was planting so we had crooked rows. We were getting a lot of compliments from the neighbors now that I’m finally planting straighter. We’re doing the perfect lap every time, instead of overlapping.”

The local farmer’s cooperative has done soil testing and mapping for the Maidls as well.

“We can put some of those maps into the tractor and the combine. I’m 50 and Leon’s 51 and we are getting educated out here, yet.”

The other part of Joe’s life where art and science meet is the auction house.

He’s been calling, or “crying,” auctions for 13 years, and later got his real estate license so he could help clients get top dollar on their farmland and machinery. His specialty is household goods and antiques.

The most unusual antique he has auctioned? An ancient issue of Playboy.

Joe has seen his share of antique items that have no clear name or purpose, in which case he refers to the scientific nomenclature: “the doohickey that hooks on to the whatchamacallit.”

Thank you, Joe, for helping Minnesota’s Farm Team reduce its carbon footprint and get the highest bids possible on its “doohickeys that hook on to the whatchamacallits.”

To learn more about the Minnesota Farm Team, visit You can register to serve as groundskeeper for a day at a Minnesota Twins game and win other great prizes. You can listen to all four Minnesota Farm Team radio commercials below.

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The farmer and the opera singer

Gary Overgaard and his mezzo-soprano wife, Emily.

Gary Overgaard and his mezzo-soprano wife, Emily.

The Minnesota Corn Growers Association launched its “Minnesota Farm Team” campaign last week to highlight how corn farmers take care of our land, water and soil. will profile a different member of the Farm Team every day this week.

Gary Overgaard’s seed customers know about his passion for farming. They know he’s into technology that makes farming more productive and more sustainable. Not all of them know he’s married to an opera singer.

Gary farms in Magnolia, where he got started as a 23-year-old in 1975. A South Dakota State University grad with a degree in animal science, Gary cobbled together off-farm jobs like county extension agent and vo-tec teacher to make a go of it. Now in his 40th year farming, he has sold his hog barn to a younger farmer, investing in the success of the next generation.

Gary uses a variable-rate planter that plants more seed in higher fertility soil (and soil with higher water-holding capacity) and less seed in lighter soils. This technology is one of many that helps farmers today grow more food using fewer resources.

Magnolia, in Southwest Minnesota, might seem like an unlikely spot for an opera career, but Emily Lodine Overgaard has been making harmony with Gary since 1992. They met on a plane to London. She was on her way to sing a mezzo-soprano opera role, he was headed to Copenhagen to Hardi International.

Teaching is a major focus for Emily, especially at Augustana College in Sioux Falls. She has performed under the direction of world class conductors like James Levine and Hugh Wolff. She also has an interesting sideline doing impressions of Julia Child.

You can hear Emily perform the Flower Duet from the opera Lakme on May 2 in Marshall. You can also hear her performances on nine CDs as a member of the Grammy-nominated choral ensemble, Conspirare, who perform everything from Bach to Annie Lennox.

Thank you Gary for being the modern-farm equipment expert on Minnesota’s Farm Team, and thank you, Emily, for giving the team a powerful voice.

To learn more about the Minnesota Farm Team, visit You can register to serve as groundskeeper for a day at a Minnesota Twins game and win other great prizes. You can listen to all four Minnesota Farm Team radio commercials below.

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The “King” of buffer strips

Farmer Elvis

Bill Brown aka the “King” of buffer strips.

The Minnesota Corn Growers Association launched its “Minnesota Farm Team” campaign last week to highlight how corn farmers take care of our land, water and soil. will profile a different member of the Farm Team every day this week.

Bill Brown and his family were named the Watonwan County Farm Family of the Year in 2013 by the University of Minnesota. After talking farming with Bill for just a few minutes, it’s easy to see why.

Brown is a fourth-generation farmer and farms 567 acres that have been in the family since 1901. He raises corn and soybeans and custom feeds 5,000 head of finishing hogs each year.

Bill also uses buffer strips on his family farm to protect water quality and was the first farmer in his county to use grid sampling to get a better sense of the nutrients on his field.

“It’s important to take the land we’ve been given and be good stewards,” Bill says. “We do our best to keep everything home, keep it on our land and out of the water.”

But Bill is more than a conservation-minded farmer. He’s also an Elvis impersonator. Bill’s Elvis act started 10 years ago at a community theater and has been going strong ever since. Bill and his band “Attitude” play 12-15 gigs per year and have a great time doing it.

Thank you, Bill, for serving as both the buffer strip expert and the “King” on the Minnesota Farm Team.

To learn more about the Minnesota Farm Team, visit You can register to serve as groundskeeper for a day at a Minnesota Twins game and win other great prizes. You can listen to all four Minnesota Farm Team radio commercials below.

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Lori Feltis: Playing a no-tillage tune

Lori Feltis

Minnesota Farm Team member Lori Feltis owns 17 accordions and practices no-tillage farming.

The Minnesota Corn Growers Association launched its “Minnesota Farm Team” campaign last week to highlight how corn farmers take care of our land, water and soil. will profile a different member of the Farm Team every day this week.

If you’re looking for someone who is passionate about farming, Lori Feltis fits the bill. If you’re looking for someone to play a few tunes on the accordion, Lori can do that, too.

Lori farms with her husband, two sons and daughter in Stewartville. On their family farm, the Feltis’s grow corn, soybeans, alfalfa and wheat. They’ve also practiced no-tillage farming since the early 1980s.

By not tilling the soil, Lori and her family significantly reduce soil erosion and increase the amount of organic matter and nutrient retention in the soil.

When you’re as passionate about farming as Lori is, being a good steward of the land is second nature. When she’s not farming, Lori speaks to community groups about farming and maintains an active Facebook page with pictures from her farm.

Oh, and Lori also owns 17 accordions. What does that have to do with farming? Nothing, unless you happen to hear Lori playing at a local threshing show. Lori got an accordion for Christmas from her father when she was a kid and taught herself how to play.

“I learned on church music,” Lori says. “That’s the easiest. Eventually I learned some country tunes and it went from there.”

Thank you, Lori, for being both the no-tillage specialist and musician of the Minnesota Farm Team!

To learn more about the Minnesota Farm Team, visit You can register to serve as groundskeeper for a day at a Minnesota Twins game and win other great prizes. You can listen to all four Minnesota Farm Team radio commercials below.

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MCGA Launches “Minnesota Farm Team” Campaign to Highlight Conservation Practices

Minnesota Farm TeamWhat does corn farming, Elvis Presley, buffer strips and playing the accordion have in common? It’s all part of a new campaign launched by the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) to highlight the conservation efforts of Minnesota corn farmers.

The campaign features 30-second radio commercials during Minnesota Twins games that profile a member of the “Minnesota Farm Team,” which is made up of corn farmers who have implemented a specific conservation practice on their farm to improve water quality, protect soil and lower agriculture’s carbon footprint. The commercials also highlight something fun and unique about each farm team member that goes beyond what they do on their farms.

Lori Feltis

Lori Feltis

For example, Lori Feltis practices no-tillage farming to reduce soil erosion on her family farm in Stewartville where she grows corn, soybeans, alfalfa and wheat. She also owns 17 accordions and plays at family gatherings and local events.

MCGA also launched where you can learn more about the members of Minnesota’s Farm Team and enter for a chance to become groundskeeper for a day at a future Twins game.

“This is a slightly different approach to show people the steps corn farmers take to protect our land, soil and water resources,” said Ryan Buck, who farms in Goodhue and serves as MCGA President.

Gary OverGaard

Gary OverGaard and his wife, Emily..

“By using a little bit of humor and good-natured fun, we’re hoping to reach people who we otherwise might not reach. When the commercial airs and that accordion music kicks in or the voice of Elvis comes through your speakers, we want people to take notice and learn something they might not have known about what we do on our farms.”

To reach even more people, MCGA is incorporating TWINGO – a baseball version of BINGO played at Twins home games – into the campaign. On the back of each TWINGO card, fans at Target Field

Bill Brown

Bill Brown

answer trivia questions to unscramble a code word. The code word is then entered at for a chance to win the groundskeeper-for-a-day grand prize and other prizes from MCGA.

Other corn farmers involved in the campaign include:

  • Bill Brown farms in Watonwan County and uses buffer strips to protect water quality. The fourth-generation family farmer also keeps himself busy away from the farm as an Elvis impersonator.
  • Gary OverGaard has farmed in Rock County for 40 years and practices precision agriculture to reduce fertilizer use and increase efficiency. He’s also married to Emily
    Joe Maidl

    Joe Maidl

    Lodine OverGaard, an internationally recognized mezzo-soprano opera singer.

  • Joe Maidl farms in Nicollet County and uses modern technology such as a GPS-synched planter that reduces fuel usage and lower agriculture’s carbon footprint. When he’s not busy on the farm, Joe is talking fast and selling farmland, machinery and antiques as an auctioneer.

You can listen to all four four commercials below. Be sure to visit to learn more.


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Save at the pump: Denco II promotion aims to increase the use of ethanol fuels

Denco II, an ethanol plant in Morris, Minn., is rolling out a new promotion this spring to increase the use of E85 and other ethanol-blended fuels like E15 and E30.

Back in 2011, Denco II invested over $100,000 in equipment upgrades to enhance their ethanol load-out system and offer E85 and higher blends directly to retailers. Beginning in April and lasting at least through the summer, consumers will be able to purchase E85 for at least $1 less than regular gasoline at 10 fueling stations in West Central Minnesota.

Participating stations include:

  • Tri-county Co-op in Wheaton, Graceville and Chokio
  • Cenex-Farmers Union Oil Co. in Alexandria
  • Cenex in Glenwood
  • Cenex in Starbuck
  • Food Shop of Morris
  • Jerry’s U-Save in Morris
  • Morris Co-op in Morris
  • Donnelly Co-op in Donnelly

Additional stations are expected to be added in the near future.

“At Denco II we recognize the value of selling our products as locally as we can,” said Carson Berger, Commodities Risk Manager at Denco II. “By increased use and awareness of higher level ethanol blends in our local market, we feel we can help consumers realize the advantage of using higher level blends of ethanol, both in their pocket books and for the environment.”

Berger also cited the positive impact a homegrown product like ethanol has on the economy in West Central Minnesota.

“When you produce a product here in the United States and sell it in United States, that dollar stays here and circulates in our local economy instead of leaving,” he said.

If you live in West Central Minnesota or you’re just passing through, be sure to stop at a participating station to support homegrown fuels and fill up for less this spring and summer.

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