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Iowa Corn Farmer-Leaders Envision Today’s Modern Ethanol Industry

June 30, 2017

As we celebrate our nation’s independence, let’s take time to celebrate ethanol, Iowa’s cleaner burning, homegrown fuel which creates more than 43,000 jobs here in our great state. One of the landmark events for Iowa Corn happened on June 15, 1978 when ICGA Past President Thurman Gaskill, a Corwith farmer who was then acting as ICPB’s first President, pumped the state’s first tank of ethanol in the town of Clarence. This new fuel was seen by many at the time as just a corn-fed gimmick. But Gaskill, who later went on to serve as state senator, was determined to turn heads and change minds. Gasohol, as it was called in those days, started small. Iowa Corn farmers wanted to find a solution to an energy crisis and low corn prices. Iowa Corn farmer-leaders found just five stations willing to sell the gasoline mixed with 10 percent ethanol in the towns of Clarence, Cumberland, Osage, Peterson and Fort Dodge.

“That’s where I pumped one of the first gallons of ethanol,” said Gaskill. “The public had reservations. Our expectations were that it could be something big.”

At roughly 10 a.m., Gaskill and other gasohol backers pumped the first gallons for mayors, development leaders and farmers. Faded black and white photos show wide grins and wider neckties.

The fuel cost about 70 cents per gallon and customers drove away with a free “This car powered by Gasohol” bumper sticker, according to newspaper accounts. The Fort Dodge station reportedly sold 350 gallons in the first hour, mostly to farmers who rolled up in their pickups.

Iowa Corn worked to build the ethanol industry in our state and around the country to gain market access for ethanol blended fuel. The benefits of renewable, homegrown ethanol have been proven to lower emissions helping the nation meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act. Iowa Corn created consumer campaigns to raise awareness of ethanol-blended fuel, founded the Iowa Renewable Fuel Association in 2002, engaged in lobbying for the Renewable Fuels Standard in 2005 and 2007, and formed a partnership with Iowa Speedway in 2007 for what is now called the Iowa Corn 300 race.

Their determination paid off. Iowa’s ethanol production in 1978 was 10 million gallons. Today, Iowa leads the nation in ethanol production, Iowa's 43 ethanol plants produced a record 4.1 billion gallons of ethanol in 2016.

ICPB continues to invest in programs and activities to further expand ethanol demand while ICGA lobbies for state and federal funding in increasing higher blend infrastructure cost-share programs and market access.

To learn more about Iowa Corn’s history, to learn more go to www.iowacorn.org.

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The Iowa Corn Promotion Board (ICPB), works to develop and defend markets, fund research, and provide education about corn and corn products.  The Iowa Corn Growers Association (ICGA) is a 7,500 member strong grassroots-driven organization, headquartered in Johnston, Iowa, serving members across the state, and lobbying on agricultural issues on behalf of its farmer members to create opportunities for long-term Iowa corn grower profitability. For more information, visit iowacorn.org.

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