September 9, 2008

Corn Flows into Dyersville Facility


Grain continues to fill both the thoughts and bins of those at the VeraSun Energy Corp. plant in Dyersville, Iowa.

The ethanol plant started receiving grains two weeks ago despite worries that farmers could not fulfill previously decided corn contracts because of flood damage.

While the Brookings, S.D., firm stalled startup dates for its newest plant in Hartley, Iowa, following the flooding, corn crops seem better prepared to supply the northeast Iowa plant, and operations began last week.

"Of course, the flooding has been the big story," VeraSun spokesman Mike Lockrem said. "But I don't think our production date for Dyersville was altered at all because of flooding."

Recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture give Iowa's largest ethanol producer hope. A study showed that the nation should harvest the second-largest corn crop in history.

"I think that's a good sign for us," Lockrem said.

And particularly for the Dyersville plant, where Lockrem said "a majority" of the

39 million bushels of corn needed annually will be supplied by local producers.

"We anticipate almost all of it coming from the area," he said.

However, Lockrem admits, there was some worry about supplies following the flooding - but not solely for supply's sake alone, as he said the market in the flood's wake produced high corn prices and low ethanol prices.

According to Mark Heckman, a grains purchaser for a West Liberty, Iowa, ethanol plant, corn contracts have been quite a concern for the industry.

"We contract for grain so we can run our plant," he said.

Heckman said some farmers are calling in and canceling their contracts, which means they cannot provide the grains they had promised earlier for a set price.

Northeast Iowa corn contracts have not been canceled.

"Right now, all corn contracts are being honored," he said.

The company merged with US BioEnergy Corp. in April and is expected to produce 110 million gallons of ethanol per year as well as 350,000 tons of distillers grains annually.

Originally published by BEKAH PORTER TH staff writer/[email protected]

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