In our series on the Ports of Indiana, we’ve seen steel and manufacturing hubs on Lake Michigan and the Ohio River. Today, we go to Indiana’s truest river port – Mt. Vernon, outside Evansville. It’s the highest-traffic port in the system, helping move processed grain, coal, and more all around the world. Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Annie Ropeik reports it’s also more susceptible than any other state port to the fallout from shifts in federal policy.

Indiana’s three ports had their second-best start to the year ever in 2017.

Burns Harbor, Mt. Vernon and Jeffersonville moved 19 percent more cargo in the first six months of this year than at the same time in 2016 – 5.7 million tons overall.

Almost two-thirds of that went through the southwest port of Mt. Vernon, in the form of bulk cargoes – things like coal, ethanol, fertilizer and minerals, which get transferred between railcars, river barges and trucks.

David Cornwell /

On Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed to increase the amount of biofuel in gasoline, a metric known as the Renewable Fuel Standard. That means more ethanol produced in the state will find its way into people’s cars.

The increase is good news for Indiana’s farmers. Kyle Cline is the National Policy Advisor at the Indiana Farm Bureau.

“Indiana’s a leading state in ethanol production,” he says, “and [the RFS] has been very important for our farmers’ bottom line and business.”

Ben Loehrke /

After more than a year of delays, the Environmental Protection Agency has released numbers for the Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS—the amount of biofuel which must be to be blended into the nation’s gas supply —for the years 2014, 2015 and 2016.

The numbers are up, and that’s big news in Indiana, one of the largest ethanol-producing states in the nation.

Seth Anderson /

Indiana farmers and ethanol producers are in limbo as they wait for the Environmental Protection Agency to decide how much of the biofuel should be blended into the nation’s gasoline.

Indiana is one of the largest ethanol producers in the U.S. And every year, thanks to a law known as the Renewable Fuel Standard, the EPA decides on how much of that ethanol gets mixed with gasoline.

Ethanol Now A Big Cash Crop For Hoosier Farmers

Oct 9, 2014
Sarah Altendorf /

Indiana farmers‘ biggest cash crops now include not just corn and soybeans, but energy.

Indiana Farm Bureau president Don Villwock says ethanol now accounts for 40-percent of Hoosier farmers‘ corn production.

And he says other forms of renewable energy benefit farmers as well.

"We do have a few solar farms starting to sprout up," says Villwock. "We have a new one in Tipton County that just recently started. So we're really on the forefront, and Purdue University is probably the leading cellulosic research institute in the country."

Two of Indiana’s ethanol plants have temporarily halted production because of high corn prices.

The shutdown of the New Energy Corporation facility in South Bend and the Valero Energy plant in the town of Linden has reduced statewide output by nearly 600,000 gallons per day. 

Valero spokesperson Bill Day says corn prices in Indiana are higher than the national average and there has also been a reduction in demand.

Day says it’s the second time this year the company has shut down its Montgomery County plant.

Valero plant close to reopening

Aug 30, 2012

Production at a bio-fuel plant in Linden remains suspended, but the facility is expected to reopen soon.

Valero Renewables is bracing to restart ethanol operations within the next few weeks.

But, company spokesperson Bill Day says exactly when is unknown.

He says when production resumes, it likely won’t be at full capacity.

Currently, 60 employees work at the Linden site.  None of them lost their jobs or pay due to the shutdown.

Day says even though production was halted, the workers did facility maintenance projects and underwent training.