SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — A diverse group including corn growers, ethanol producers, manufacturers, the construction industry and minority organizations are expressing concerns over new legislation that passed the Illinois House and is now in the Senate’s hands.
The Illinois House passed the Illinois Hazardous Materials Workforce Training Act by a 70-44 margin on April 22.
Among the bill’s provisions drawing concerns from corn growers and the biofuel industry is it will force private construction workers employed at refineries, chemical plants and ethanol facilities into a union.
“We are very concerned with the potential negative impact to rural Illinois that is gaining traction in Springfield. A provision in H.B. 3437 would require ethanol plants in Illinois to use union labor for future expansions and plant maintenance. Should this become law, the change will limit ethanol plant capacity growth in Illinois, which will hurt market opportunities for Illinois corn farmers,” said Illinois Corn Growers Association President Randy DeSutter, Woodhull.
“It could also hurt Illinois communities. One year ago, many Illinois ethanol plants were able to quickly convert their operations to making hand sanitizer to help our nation and our world fight the COVID-19 virus. If this regulation were in place, that conversion couldn’t have happened and the capacity would have been built out in other states.
“Illinois already has fewer ethanol plants than surrounding states because of our poor business climate. This new provision would further erode opportunities to build markets for ag commodities because now Illinois will have different and more difficult regulations than Iowa, Missouri, Indiana and Wisconsin. This provision was passed in the House with little understanding of rural Illinois and little concern for those hurting communities in our state.”
Several downstate senators have already signed on to co-sponsor the bill in that chamber, and ICGA urges corn producers to contact their local legislators to voice their concerns over the bill.
Illinois is the second largest corn producing state in the nation, with 32% of the 2.1 billion bushels of corn produced in Illinois sold to ethanol plants.
Illinois’ 13 ethanol plants also provide over 32,000 direct and indirect jobs, in addition to benefits to local schools and communities through tax payments.
The Prairie State’s ethanol industry has a total economic impact of $5.29 billion and produces enough fuel to displace 35% of the state’s petroleum usage, according to the Illinois Renewable Fuels Association.
The ICGA said the problems with the legislation include:
• This bill will force Illinois ethanol plants to use union labor for their building, expansion and maintenance because unions will be the ones providing the training that is required.
• The additional expense to operate an ethanol plant in Illinois will push new ethanol plants into neighboring states.
• Ethanol plants provide important jobs and economic development in rural communities.
• This additional expense will disincentivize plants to modernize or expand in ways that can make producing ethanol the most efficient and most environmentally friendly.