POET, the largest U.S. biofuels company, is shutting down ethanol production at three facilities in Iowa and South Dakota and postponing the opening of another plant that was set to begin producing in Indiana, the company said Tuesday.

The South Dakota company joins a growing number of other producers across the company as they too shut down or cut back production as gasoline prices tumble in response to spiraling fuel demand amid the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Across the board, biofuel producers and our partners in the farm community face an unprecedented challenge,” said POET CEO Jeff Broin, who stressed that the company is “working hard to ensure that every biorefinery remains well-positioned to support a strong and swift recovery once daily life returns to normal.”

POET idled plants in Chancellor, S.D., Ashton, Iowa, and Coon Rapids, Iowa, as well as postponed opening a new plant in Shelbyville, Ind.

“Unfortunately, this is going to impact about 130 employees being furloughed,” Doug Berven, POET’s vice president of corporate affairs told Agri-Pulse. "It's also going to reduce production at those facilities by about 330 million gallons." He said that means 110 million bushels of corn less being purchased.

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The idling back comes on top of slowing production in other facilities.

“Ethanol producers across the country are slashing production amid the ongoing crisis,” POET said in a statement. “Nationally, experts predict a decline in fuel demand of up to 55%. If these conditions persist, it will result in an annualized drop in ethanol demand of up to eight billion gallons or 2.7 billion bushels of corn.”

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