Minnesota's struggling ethanol producers need a strong year

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Minnesota’s ethanol industry, the nation’s fifth-largest ethanol-producing state with 21 plants, is looking forward to a better summer this year.

Plant owners told the Star Tribune it couldn’t be much worse than last year. A drought led to record-high prices for corn and forced a few production facilities to shutdown.

“Everyone is optimistic because the price of corn has gone down,” Larry Johnson, an ethanol industry consultant based in Cologne, Minn., told the newspaper.

Eight idled ethanol plants have reopened, including one in Little Falls, Minn., according to the Star Tribune.

Minnesota corn farmers intend to plant the largest crop in state history this season.

However, sales of the high-ethanol gasoline blend E85 in Minnesota dropped 26 percent last year from 2011.

Bloomington-based Advanced BioEnergy sold its southeast Nebraska ethanol plant in December to Kansas-based Flint Hills Resources.

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