Sovereign tells ethanolâ€™s story in Washington
CRESCO, Iowa — Dave Sovereign was part of the American Coalition for Ethanol’s recent grassroots fly-in called "the Biofuels Beltway March." It was his first trip to Washington, D.C., to advocate for ethanol, and he said he’d do it again.
"I’ve met with local officials and state legislators before, but this was the first time I went to Washington," Sovereign said. "ACE called it, ‘boots on the ground.’ We were meeting one-on-one with people who need to learn the facts about ethanol."
Sovereign has served on the board of directors of ACE for about a year.
"It’s a unique organization because it includes a real mix of people in the industry," Sovereign said.
The fly-in brought ACE members from 16 states who represented various segments of the ethanol industry: Farmers, investors, corn-based and next -generation ethanol producers, plant general managers, board members, and business that supply goods and services.
Sovereign said that ACE members work to get the ethanol industry’s story out.
USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Sen. John Thune addressed the entire group.
ACE members broke into groups of four to five and met with 160 members of Congress. Sovereign’s group visited one-on-one with 11 representatives.
"We talked to our friends and thanked them for their support but we also met with nearly half of the freshmen members of Congress, and more than half of the meetings in the House were with those who voted against E15 or blender pumps," Sovereign said. "Those were some good visits and I think we made some headway."
ACE members gave members of Congress small bags of corn and distillers grains.
"It was amazing how many were not familiar with corn," Sovereign said. "One staffer said it wasn’t the corn he eats from the grocery store and it didn’t look like popcorn. I told them it’s field corn, and it’s what we use to make ethanol."
Many weren't aware of distillers grains or that a product was left over from the ethanol process.
"They were led to believe we used all the corn," Sovereign said. "They didn’t know there was a high quality, high protein animal feed left over. They weren’t aware that for every 5 billion bushels of corn we use, we’re putting back over 2 billion bushels of animal feed and that the net effect on the feed supply was not as much as usually gets portrayed."
The highlight of the trip for Sovereign was talking with a new representative who voted against funding for additional blender pumps.
"He said he didn’t know anything about ethanol, and he wanted us to educate him," Sovereign said. "We talked for a while, and he certainly has a better understanding of ethanol and what it does for the economy. I think we did a lot of good with him and others like him. But it also demonstrated that we have a long ways to go in telling our story."
Sovereign was in Washington when President Obama unveiled his energy plan, which included support for ethanol.
"It was good to hear him talk about ethanol out loud," Sovereign said. "Ethanol has always been the family member no one wants to talk about. President Obama realizes the role we play."
Legislators told ACE members to stay in contact and to keep the data coming.
"We made a lot of contacts that we can follow up on," Sovereign said. "We told them that we’re all pulling the same rope, but we need to make sure we’re all pulling in the same direction."