Big River United Energy Plant Manager Terry Manchester discusses the plant operations with Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds during her visit, June 9.

A stop by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds at Big River United Energy gave her the chance to talk with plant officials about the future of expanding ethanol use in Iowa.

Reynold stopped June 9 for a quick look at the plant and to talk about her proposal to increase ethanol mandates in Iowa.

During last year’s legislative session, Reynolds introduced a proposal that would require almost all gasoline sold in Iowa to contain at least 10% ethanol, with an option for the governor to increase that requirement to 15% in four years.

At the time of the governor’s proposal, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association projected the move would increase ethanol use by 117 million gallons and biodiesel by 203 gallons.

A group that included Casey’s, Kum & Go and Kwik Star opposed the mandate, as did the Iowa chapter of Americans for Prosperity.

While Reynold’s proposal didn’t become law, Big River United Energy CEO Jim Leiting said the governor’s support was important.

“While it didn’t make it through this year, we want to thank you for your support as well as your support for agriculture,” he said.

Reynolds responded that she wasn’t giving up on her proposal. “We are going to do everything we can to drive demand. We were able to get an increase in the renewable fuels infrastructure program. I think that is good and will continue to look for more markets.”

Reynolds said she will bring the mandate proposal back next session after conducting meetings during the interim with all stakeholders.

“I think maybe the fuel retailers didn’t feel they had an opportunity to sit down and really walk through how we move this forward. It benefits all of us, so we need to figure out a way to be partners and not adversaries. I have made a pledge to all of the groups that we will get them to the table over the interim and start figuring out a way that we can continue to move forward.”

Among the concerns from fuel retailers was the cost of infrastructure to meet the mandate.

“That’s why one of the things we did for the retail fuelers was put additional funding into infrastructure,” Reynolds said. “They recognize there is a cost to building out some of the infrastructure to do the higher blends and to drive the increased usage of ethanol and soy.”

Reynolds acknowledged taking more time could mean a better end product. “Sometimes it can be easy to just check a box and move a little and that’s not something we are trying to do. I want to make sure this is meaningful and impactful and moves the needle. I want it to be long-term and sustainable.”

She continued, “This is a really important industry for the state of Iowa. It’s really important for rural Iowa as well as for the environment — I don’t think that is something we talk enough about. It’s another opportunity for economic growth in rural Iowa so we want to continue to focus on it.”