Producer Spotlight : Central MN Ethanol Co-op

Interview with Dana Persson, CEO/General Manager of Central MN Ethanol Co-op.

d persson

Q. What do you view as the most important things you can do as a general manager to ensure the continued success of Central MN Ethanol Co-op (CMEC) facility?

A. A challenge for the ethanol industry, like many other industries, is managing our margins. As a plant, we have little control over the price that we receive for the products we produce (ethanol, DDGS and corn oil) as the prices are dictated by the markets.  The same is true for what we pay for our major inputs (corn and natural gas).  As a team we work to properly manage the commodity risk that is inherent in the business and ensure that we are operating the plant at its optimal performance and peak efficiency.  We have made significant improvements in operational efficiencies in  the last couple of years  and we will continue to do so into the future.

cmec aerial view

Q. How long have you personally worked in the ethanol industry and what was your path to your current position?

A. I started my career in the Grain and Farm Supply business managing locally owned cooperatives.  In the middle 1990's I helped develop  a "greenfield" fully integrated poultry operation selling egg products to companies in the food manufacturing and food service industry. We sold the company in 2009.  I have been with CMEC and I have worked in the ethanol industry for the last two years.

Q. Please share the impact that you feel CMEC has on the local economy and surrounding communities?

A. We feel that employing local people is an important part of keeping a community vibrant. CMEC currently has 29 full time employees and 2 part time employees. CMEC supports many other local businesses in the area by purchasing goods and services from these companies. In addition, CMEC also provides benefits to the local agricultural industry as we provide a consistently competitive market for corn. CMEC's presence has improved our local corn basis and saves agricultural producers the expense of transporting their product greater distances.

Having been in the grain business for over 30 years, I have witnessed the effects of a weak agricultural economy firsthand and its direct impact on families, communities and the country at large.  It was not that many years ago that farmers consistently sold their grain for a price that was well below what it cost the farmer to produce it.  The result of this deficit was larger payments through government farm programs. More recently because of improved corn prices, government payments to farmers have decreased.

In my experience, rural areas have exported a lot of "brain power" from our local communities as our kids lost hope in careers in agriculture and sought their fortunes from non-ag industries. We hope that the impact of ethanol on the agricultural community provides the opportunity for young people to return to rural communities for jobs and possibly the opportunity to return to the family farm.

Q. What would you like consumers to know about your plant and the products produced by the plant?

A. In my opinion, one of the best kept secrets about the ethanol industry is the positive impact we have on the livestock industry. In addition to ethanol, one of the co-products from our ethanol production process is Dried Distillers Grains (DDGs) which are sold to livestock producers for feed. We sell this very high quality feed (protein content of 27-30% and fat content of 6-9%) at a discount to raw corn values. This allows livestock producers to displace higher cost ingredients and thereby reduce their overall feed costs substantially.

Q. Where are the biggest opportunities for ethanol in the next 10 years in your opinion?

A. Ethanol is extremely important since it is as an economical source of octane in fuels and an oxygenate replacement for MTBE. MTBE is fossil fuel derived and was banned because of its adverse health effects and pervasiveness in the environment. Future engines will require higher levels of octane to achieve better performance and economy required to meet new federal standards and ethanol can satisfy the requirements of those new engines.