Gas Pump

Ethanol production has been cut in half during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Ag giant Archer Daniels Midland has closed its 90-employee Cedar Rapids corn ethanol plant for at least four months due to reduced demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.

ADM said the workers will get medical benefits during the furloughs and may apply for state and federal unemployment benefits. They also may apply for other ADM jobs.

The shutdown could be extended depending on market conditions.

ADM also temporarily closed its plant in Columbus, Neb., furloughing 90 employees there for at least four months.

The company has reduced production at some other plants, and has produced alcohol for hand sanitizers.

“These are very difficult decisions in a very challenging time, and unfortunately, the current market conditions and the low consumer demand for gasoline at this time have greatly (affected) the entire ethanol industry,” Chris Cuddy, president, Carbohydrate Solutions said in a news release.

Growth Energy, a biofuels industry group, said ethanol production has dropped by half during the pandemic. The industry has set records both for low production levels and for large stockpiles, the group reported.

“The evaporation of fuel demand due to COVID-19 has been a knock-out blow to biofuel plants across the heartland, who were already fighting an uphill battle against trade barriers, regulatory threats, and a flood of foreign oil,” Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor said in a statement.