The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) recently hosted the 10th Annual Biofuels: Science and Sustainability Tour, which brings Washington, D.C. decision makers to Iowa for an up-close, hands-on experience with today’s renewable fuels industry. This year’s tour took nearly 40 participants on an engaging biofuels journey, visiting an ethanol plant, biodiesel plant, family farm, soybean crush facility, Iowa fuel retailer, and so much more!

In the past year, the debate over the role and future of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) has captured national attention, including the attention of Congress and the White House. Considering Iowa leads the nation in biofuels production, the tour provided policy makers the opportunity to see how their actions in D.C. impact producers, farmers, and consumers around the country and discuss important issues facing the renewable fuels industry, including the RFS and E15 RVP parity.

Tour participants represented the offices of Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (PA), Chris Collins (NY), Daniel Donovan (NY), Daniel Webster (FL), Darrell Issa (CA), Dave Brat (VA), Dave Loebsack (IA), David Young (IA), Jerry McNerney (CA), Jimmy Gomez (CA), Jodey Arrington (TX), Jose Serrano (NY), Ken Buck (CO), Matt Cartwright (PA), Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM), Mo Brooks (AL), Rod Blum (IA), Rodney Davis (IL), Rosa DeLauro (CT), Sanford Bishop (GA), Steve King (IA), Trey Hollingsworth (IN), Walter Jones (NC), Senators Charles Grassley (IA), Joni Ernst (IA), House Committee on Science, Argonne National Laboratory, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. International Trade Commission.

2018 Biofuels Tour Day 1

Iowa State Fair

Tour participants visited the Iowa State Fair and heard from Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig and several FFA students on the importance of renewable fuels and agriculture to the state of Iowa. Tour attendees also had the opportunity to visit many Iowa State Fair attractions, including the Animal Learning Center, prize-winning Iowa livestock animals, cutting-edge farming technology, and more!



2018 Biofuels Tour Day 2

Iowa State University Sorenson and BioCentury Research Farms

On the first full day of the tour, attendees visited the Iowa State University Sorenson Research Farm and BioCentury Research Farm. At the Sorenson Farm participants learned about giant miscanthus and biochar, and potential for future use of these sustainable commodities in the biofuels industry.

At the BioCentury Research Farm attendees learned about the many biomass-conversion research projects happening at ISU today, like the potential of fast pyrolysis.

ISU Professors Robert Brown and Gabe Lade gave presentations on the need for carbon removal and the impact of Renewable Identification Number prices on the success of the RFS.

To view Professor Brown’s presentation click here.

To view Professor Lade’s presentation click here.








Renewable Energy Group – Ralston and LANDUS Cooperative

Tour attendees visited Renewable Energy Group’s (REG) newly-expanded biodiesel plant in Ralston and toured the LANDUS Cooperative soybean crush facility next door which supplies the soybean oil REG uses to make biodiesel at the Ralston plant.

The group also heard from National Biodiesel Board Director of Public Affairs and Federal Communications Paul Winters, who discussed federal policies relating to the biodiesel industry – including the biodiesel blenders tax credit and the RFS.

To view Winters’ presentation click here.


Sparky’s One Stop

At Sparky’s One Stop in Carroll attendees met the owner and operator Collin Tiefenthaler and biofuels supplier Nick Bowdish. Nick and Collin discussed why the local chain offers biofuel blends at its stations – including E85, E15, and biodiesel.

2018 Biofuels Tour Day 3

Little Sioux Corn Processors

Day three kicked off with a tour of Little Sioux Corn Processors, a 165 million-gallon-a-year ethanol plant in Marcus. Attendees learned about how conventional ethanol is made from corn starch as well as how the plant produces cellulosic ethanol from corn kernel fiber. The tour also touched on the co-products of ethanol production, including dried distillers grains (DDGs) – a high-protein animal feed – and corn oil, which can be used to produce biodiesel.

Renewable Fuels Association Vice President Geoff Cooper gave a presentation on the importance of octane in fuel and how ethanol is the cleanest, most cost-effective source of fuel octane in the world.

To view Cooper’s presentation, click here.


Plymouth Dairy Farms

Tour attendees joined local farmers for lunch at Plymouth Dairy Farms in Le Mars and toured the family farm. Attendees learned not only about dairy production but also about corn and soybean production. Plymouth Dairy Farms owners also discussed the use of DDGs and soybean meal in the feed rations for the cows.

Wells Enterprises

The day wrapped up with a tour of Wells Enterprises, home of Blue Bunny and Bomb Pop. Wells Enterprises is one of the major customers of Plymouth Dairy Farms. Speakers touched on ice cream production and marketing. Attendees also learned about the research behind product development – including blind taste tests!


2018 Biofuels Tour Day 4

Magellan Pipeline Terminal

The final day of the tour kicked off with a tour of the Magellan pipeline facility in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Vice President of Government and Media Affairs Bruce Heine discussed the logistics of fuel storage, distribution, and the process of blending various fuel options such as E15 and B20.

Raven Industries, Inc.

The last stop on the tour was Raven Industries in Sioux Falls. Attendees heard from Gene Hammond with Association Motor Club Marketing about the positive experience his members have had with E15.

Presenters from Raven Industries discussed the growing market for precision agriculture technology and how it is enabling farmers to increase yields and reduce inputs – protecting the environment and reducing production costs.

Tour Wrap-Up

IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw concluded the tour with a presentation that highlighted the dramatic impact a growing renewable fuels market had on farm income and how negative the result has been for farmers since 2014 when the statutory RFS schedule was first undermined. Shaw also highlighted how the RFS needs to be viewed within the full context of US energy policy, which is decidedly tilted in the favor of petroleum liquid fuels.

To view Shaw’s presentation, click here.

To view a digital version of the tour book provided to all attendees, click here.

Thank You Tour Sponsors! 

The Biofuels: Science and Sustainability Tour would not be possible without our sponsors.