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Iowa farmer trudges on, despite recent obstacles

One Iowa farmers response to COVID-19 is, “This is temporary, and we’re going to continue to do what we do best – Produce food, fiber, and fuel for American consumers and consumers around the world.”

Kelly Nieuwenhuis, of Primghar, IA, wears many hats. He assumes many titles, including: Husband, father, farmer, and seedsman. His farming role has offered him many leadership opportunities. Nieuwenhuis currently serves as Iowa Corn Promotion Board director, Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program Board director, National Corn Growers Association Ethanol Committee member, and Siouxland Energy Cooperative president.

Nieuwenhuis, who is deeply rooted in agriculture, admits, “This is a difficult time.” COVID-19 has impacted all facets of agriculture, particularly ethanol, grains, and livestock. Nieuwenhuis outlines numerous challenges he faces as a corn farmer and ethanol stakeholder.

“The ethanol industry is in a tough position with record low prices; grain prices have dropped. It’s a difficult time that – six months ago – nobody was expecting. It’s one of those situations where we’ll keep doing what we’re doing and get through this,” Nieuwenhuis said.

Current research suggests “massive destruction to domestic gasoline demand,” as people start to isolate themselves and postpone upcoming travel, cites one analyst.

“Estimates of a 15- to 20-percent reduction in gasoline use seems to be the expectation for many industry analysts over the next couple of months,” shares Todd Hubbs, with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois. Siouxland Energy Cooperative, which Nieuwenhuis holds stake in, made adjustments to its operating schedule, due to COVID-19.

“We were scheduled for a spring maintenance shutdown, to begin April 13. We decided at our last board meeting that we would move that up a couple weeks, so we’re going to idle our plant on March 30. During the maintenance shutdown period, (we will) see how things go and make decisions on our situation moving forward,” Nieuwenhuis said.

Matters could shift on short notice. Siouxland Energy Cooperative will be “nimble” and “prepared,” so plant employees can resume operations as soon as things get better. Until then, Nieuwenhuis anticipates farmers to “do what they do best.”

“We’re going to plant our crops in the spring, with Mother Nature being supportive of that. Our livestock producers are going to continue to care for their livestock, so they can remain a great protein source for American consumers,” Nieuwenhuis said.