Hail and Farewell to the ‘Ethanol Answer Man’

July 28, 2020 |

Today, let us mark the passing of Larry Johnson, following a stroke. Johnson was 76.

He was formerly the president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association and a director of the National Corn Growers Association, , he was “the Ethanol Answer Man” to many, a friend to all, a long-time Minnesota farmer whose embrace of ethanol technology was total and whose knowledge of the industry, its people, its place in our society, its role in lifting the farm economy and clearing our skies was second to none.

Brendan Jordan of the Great Plains Institute wrote:

Larry was well-known for his role as a pioneer in establishing Minnesota’s ethanol industry, and Minnesota’s ethanol producer payment program was a model for our work to promote advanced biofuels, biobased chemicals, and biomass thermal energy. I know Larry because of his role as a very devoted volunteer who helped to create the Bioeconomy Coalition of Minnesota and pass the Bioincentive Program. Larry was active in the Coalition from the very beginning and spent countless hours helping to build support for our agenda. As I was completely unknown in agriculture and biofuels circles, he opened a lot of doors for me. Larry spent many hours at the Minnesota capitol helping to educate legislators. He personally, as a member of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, offered up the resolution at the annual meeting to add the Bioincentive Program to the policy platform. It’s hard to see how we could have gotten where we are today without Larry’s help.

One of the Due Diligence Wolfpack, Joel Stone, added:

Larry was a good friend of mine and worked in the trenches with folks like me during the massive expansion of the ethanol buildout from 2005 through 2009. We should offer our respects for an individual who played an important role during the deployment of biofuels in North America. Larry will be sorely missed by pioneers in the ethanol industry.

Brian Jennings, executive director of the American Coalition for Ethanol, wrote:

Larry was one of ethanol’s most energetic and passionate advocates, embodied by his near-superhero status as the ‘Ethanol Answer Man’ who traveled across Minnesota in his ‘Ethanol Answer Van’ to educate farmers, mechanics, the public and media about the benefits of ethanol.

“Like ACE’s founder Merle Anderson, Larry Johnson was first and foremost a Minnesota farmer who saw ethanol as a way to help rescue the rural economy from the 1980s farm crisis. Indeed, he was a driving force behind the effort to ensure farmers had an ownership stake in the ethanol industry. As the former President of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association and member of the National Corn Growers Association Board of Directors, Larry was also instrumental in pushing for public policies to benefit farmers and the ethanol industry.

The Minnesota Corn Growers Association noted:

Following the 1980s farm crisis, ethanol represented an emerging market for corn farmers when it was desperately needed, but in its infancy, much was still unknown about the commodity. Johnson took it upon himself to address the many questions posed by each stakeholder, from farmers to auto repair shops to policymakers.

“As we got to discussing ethanol, we quickly learned we have a lot more questions than answers,” said former MCGA director Jerry Ploehn. “Larry decided it was time to dig into it and understand ethanol fully, from beginning to end. He was the man who decided to be the leader.”

Ploehn said Johnson’s decision to take the reins in the ethanol education effort was to the benefit of corn farmers and the future of the ethanol industry. In the leadership role, Johnson learned the ins and outs of ethanol and its potential, earning him the reputation as the “Ethanol Answer Man”—a distinction he never took lightly.

“From the time he took on this role to the time he retired, he was highly thought of not only with farmers and within the industry, but also with politicians and beyond,” Ploehn said.

More on Minnesota Corn Growers Association’s statement here.

AgWired.com offered a tribute here and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune published its obituary here.

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