By Bill Hudson

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s been a challenging year for Minnesota’s corn and soybean farmers. Despite low prices and high rainfall amounts, harvest time is just weeks away.

One-third of the state’s corn will go to produce ethanol – while bio diesel production absorbs about one-quarter of all soybeans grown in the state.

Still, the ethanol and biodiesel industry is struggling for greater fuel market share.

“This door on biofuels is wide open and we want to be the national leader,” explained Governor Tim Walz.

To do that, Governor Walz stepped onto the two-thousand acre Brian Thalmann family farm near Plato in McLeod County to give corn and soybean farmers a boost.

He was there to sign an executive order that will establish a 15-person Governor’s Biofuels Council. It will be tasked with finding strategies to grow market share and demand.

“This council will make sure that voice is out there. To make sure that innovation moves forward. We’re looking at new ways to market and new ways to produce biofuels,” says Governor Walz.

The state’s 18 ethanol and 3 biodiesel plants say profit margins are razor-thin. One big reason is that they are being hurt by federal renewable fuel standards that give small refineries waivers.

That move alone is displacing some four-billion gallons of biofuel production. Consequently, it leads to less demand for corn and beans.

“Each year we’re producing more gallons per bushel of ethanol with new technologies, but these extra gallons are what we’re struggling to market,” explains Gary Anderson, CEO of Heartland Corn Products.

The council will draw members from agriculture, industry and the environment. The panel’s report to Walz is due in November 2020.

Meantime, farmers hope that biofuel plants can hang on against the economic and market headwinds.