The elastic fibers in yoga tights and stretchy jeans that have become popular — and comfortable — fashion choices everywhere from major cities to rural towns could soon be made from corn grown right here in Iowa. 

BASF has inked an agreement with a company called Qore, a subsidiary of Cargill and HELM AG, to obtain bio-based 1,4-butanediol (BDO) from Cargill’s biotechnology campus and corn refining operation in Eddyville. The bio-based product can potentially lower the carbon footprint of products up to 86% while maintaining the same physical and technical properties as BDO made from fossil fuels, said Qore CEO Jon Veldhouse.

BDO is a key precursor for the production of PolyTHF, a starting material for elastic spandex and elastane fibers that are used for a range of textiles such as swimsuits, sportswear and stretch jeans. It also serves as a chemical building block for thermoplastic polyurethanes used to make abrasion-resistant and flexible hoses and cable sheathing. Other applications include materials to make wheels for skateboards and inline skates.

Setting aside the scientific jargon, the bottom line for farmers is more demand for their corn. Cargill’s Eddyville campus already has a reputation for offering some of the highest corn bids in southeast Iowa, enticing farmers to deliver corn from many miles away. Last week, corn bids at Eddyville were 30 cents higher than a grain elevator just 10 miles down the road.

The Qore facility is one of the newer additions to the Eddyville campus. The fact that it’s already landing big contracts like the one with BASF is a sign of more good things to come for farmers.