Ethanol production continues to gain steam as travel recovers amid the pandemic.

And, that’s crucial not only as an alternative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but to bolster corn demand in a highly competitive market, according to Marty Marr, president of the Illinois Corn Growers Association (ICGA).

“There’s been a lot of effort getting infrastructure in place to use ethanol at higher blends,” Marr told FarmWeek. “We need to keep that moving forward.

“The industry right now is very strong,” he continued. “I hope people can gauge how good of an energy choice it is.”

USDA recently estimated the ethanol industry will use 5.25 billion bushels of corn for 2021-2022, up from the 2020-2021 estimate of 5.02 billion bushels and 4.85 billion bushels consumed in 2019-2020.

Marr operates MDM Farms in Sangamon County with his wife, Sheila, their sons, Martin Jr. and Evan, and his brother, David. He believes biofuels will continue to play a key role in reducing emissions, even as more focus turns to the production of electric vehicles.

“We know EVs are coming. It’s all part of climate solutions,” he said. “It’s also about giving people options to choose from and the thing about ethanol is it’s here, and it’s ready now.”

One of ICGA’s top priorities is the passage of a next generation fuels bill. Marr also looks forward to crucial improvements to locks and dams on the Mississippi River system through the infrastructure bill.

“That not only will benefit ag, but the entire state economy,” he said. “A lot of commerce goes up and down that river.”

USDA recently estimated corn exports could reach 2.5 billion bushels this year, down from 2.75 billion in 2020/21, but up significantly from 1.77 billion bushels in 2019/20.

“We hope there’s efforts to keep trade strong,” Marr said. “We have good partners and we have a good, dependable lineup of products to choose from.”

Another ICGA priority this year revolves around ensuring an adequate safety net and crop insurance provisions in the next farm bill.

One of Marr’s top personal goals as the ICGA leader is to work with other ag groups to seek solutions for farmers. He also served as president of the Illinois Livestock Development Group.

“I really look forward to reaching out to a lot of people in our organization, and outside of it to other organizations,” he said. “We’re definitely all in this together.”

The Marrs grow corn and soybeans, have a small cattle herd, and operate custom hay baling and commercial trucking operations.