Agricultural Economics Department


First Advisor

Dr. Elliott J. Dennis

Second Advisor

Dr. Richard Perrin

Third Advisor

Dr. Galen Erickson

Date of this Version



Gertner, Daniel. 2021. "Distillers' Grains: Past, Present, and Future Economic Analyses." Master Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Agricultural Economics, Under the Supervision of Professor Elliott J. Dennis. Lincoln, Nebraska: December, 2021

Copyright © 2021 Daniel E. Gertner


This thesis is comprised of four chapters, each of which discusses or conducts economic research related to the distillers’ grains market. The first three chapters are meant to be standalone papers. Chapter four provides potential paths forward in distillers’ grains research based on the findings of the first three chapters and concludes the thesis.

The first chapter conducts a comprehensive literature review that categorizes and summarizes economic research on distillers’ grains products. This section shows how the physical market has moved beyond the current academic understanding of market products and structure. Existing research finds that traditional distillers’ grains products positively contribute to the livestock feeding industry, but much of the research covered in the literature review appeared in the early 2000s or shortly thereafter, leaving many current questions in the distillers’ grains industry unexplored.

Chapter 2 estimates the magnitudes of and relationships between distillers’ grains price changes in response to the COVID-19 market shock using panel fixed effect models. The price fluctuations indicate that livestock producers favored the flexibility provided by dried distillers’ grains (DDGS) and, therefore, drove those prices upward more significantly than modified wet distillers’ grains (MDGS) and wet distillers’ grains (WDGS) prices. The disparate price responses by grain type and location offer some insight into how markets may respond in the event of future market shocks. Consequently, the results from this analysis can assist both ethanol plants and livestock producers in better preparing for future market shocks.

The third chapter proposes an equilibrium displacement model (EDM) of the U.S. ethanol industry to estimate the short-run impacts of market shocks on prices and quantities in the distillers’ grains complex. The results of the EDM analysis indicate that the responses of ethanol and each type of distillers’ grain to market shocks rely heavily on the relationships between the products. Applying the EDM framework to real-world events can help both plants and producers in adjusting their operations to minimize the impacts of market shocks.

Advisor: Elliott J. Dennis