Iowa ethanol production in­­creased to a record-breaking 4.5 billion gallons in 2022, up from the previous record of 4.4 billion gallons in 2021, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association said in a news release last week. 

Analysts credit fuel demand returning to pre-pandemic levels, Iowa ethanol plant efficiencies, and the ample local corn supply as factors in the upward trend. 

Iowa’s 11 biodiesel plants produced a combined 349 million gallons of biodiesel in 2022, up from 340 million gallons in 2021.

Soybean oil, accounting for 71% of production, remained the feedstock of choice for Iowa biodiesel producers. Likewise, animal fats remained in second place at 11%. Canola oil usage increased markedly to barely edge out corn oil for third place. Both accounted for roughly 7% of production. Used cooking oil dropped to 4% of production.

The record year for biodiesel production in the state was 2018, when Iowa plants produced 365 million gallons.

Analysts expect strong corn prices in 2023

Global corn prices will stay elevated this year as markets respond to demand pressures, weather impacts and political instability, stated Beroe, an ag intelligence and analytics provider.

“Global corn production has risen by approximately 11% over five years as a response to the rise in corn demand by roughly 14% during the same period,” the analysis stated. “The end-user industries, including corn starch and animal feed, are the main forces behind supply and demand, impacting price trends.”

Since end-use categories are largely concentrated in the U.S. and China, these two nations are the top consumers, analysts believe. Concerning the corn processing end-use segments, citric acid is in high demand post COVID-19, while the corn starch market could rise by 4.8% in the coming years. This is causing corn demand in the U.S. and China to grow.

New beef processor secures land in SW Iowa

Cattlemen’s Heritage Beef has finalized the purchase of a 132-acre site for a proposed 2,000-head-a-day beef processing plant, located in Mills County, near the Pottawattamie County line, at the Interstate 29 and Bunge Road intersection.

The goal of the new facility is to provide a market and processing for cattle raised by independent cattle producers within a 200-mile radius of Council Bluffs.

Groundbreaking is planned for later this year. The plant is expected to start accepting cattle in 2024. 

U.S. pork breeding

Herd grew in 2022 

While most of the U.S. hog herd shrunk last year, the breeding inventory was pegged at 6.15 million head by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) this month, up slightly from the previous quarter and last year.

“Assuming the breeding herd in the December report is correct at 100.5% of its year-ago level and that kind of growth persists this year, fourth quarter slaughter could be as much as 3% higher than 2022,” said Steve Meyer, an ag economist with Partners for Production Agriculture. “I believe breakeven costs for average producers will remain in the mid-$90s per hundredweight carcass for at least the first three quarters of 2023.”

The USDA said the all hogs and pigs inventory in the U.S. was 73.1 million head, down 2% from last year and down 1% from September 2022.