Aviation Option Out For WI Corn

Wisconsin corn farmers are disappointed by an announcement from the U.S. Department of Treasury that will limit corn-based ethanol’s contribution to decarbonizing the aviation sector.

The update to the Department of Energy’s Argonne GREET model says that corn- based ethanol must be grown with additional on-farm conservation practices to apply for tax credits available in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

New measurements involve land use changes connected to commodity production. The changes, according to the Wisconsin Corn Growers are are not justified. WCGA says the new formula puts a negative spin on carbon scores for ethanol making. That means it’s more difficult for corn to qualify as a feedstock. The updated model will also require farmers to use no-till practices. Other elements involve fertilizers and cover crops. Not all those practices are practical for all corn acres.

“Wisconsin farmers have been implementing farming practices on their own farms to suit the needs of their land and crops, ” according to James Giese, Wisconsin Corn Grower Association President, and Alma Center farmer.  “Wisconsin farmland changes with the landscape of our state and to enact rules that can impede on practicality and needs may deter potential opportunities.”

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) shared the same frustration on the announcement.

“We are deeply disappointed that this updated model requires farmers to implement environmental practices that are not practical for all acres of the large and varied geographic region in which corn is grown,” said Minnesota farmer and NCGA President Harold Wolle. “This requirement in GREET will significantly hinder the chances corn growers have in accessing the sustainable aviation fuel market, even as higher blends of corn ethanol offer great promise in the country’s fight against greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.”

The Inflation Reduction Act, passed in 2022, allocates tax credits for biofuels that can demonstrate that they cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50% or more. After the law was passed, Treasury and EPA were charged with choosing a model that would measure emissions throughout the life of biofuels.