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Published in: Sustainability in a Time of Climate Change: Developing an Intensive Research Framework for the Platte River Basin and the High Plains. Proceedings from the 2008 Climate Change Workshop, May 19-22. Hosted by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln & U.S. Geological Survey. Copyright © 2009 The Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska.


Nebraska is now the second-largest producer of corn ethanol in the U.S. This is largely because of the state’s comparative advantages. For one, the state’s water resources enable a huge capacity for irrigation – Nebraska ranks second in irrigated crop acres, behind California. Nebraska is the third-largest corn producer in the U.S., with 75 percent of the crop irrigated. The state also produces nearly 5 million acres of soybeans, half of them irrigated. Both provide a large, dependable supply of feedstock for production of ethanol and other biofuels. Nebraska’s cattle feeding industry, with more than 4.5 million head on feed, utilizes ethanol byproducts such as distillers grains and enables biorefinery systems to attain high energy efficiency and profitability. This powerful nexus of agriculture, water and biofuels is highly vulnerable to changes in climate. The panelists represented a cross-section of these interests, including a manager of the state’s longest-operating ethanol plant, a farmer with extensive knowledge of ethanol production, the administrator of the state ethanol board and a project manager from a federal agency charged with tracking land use and its ties to biofuel production and climate change.