RFA intern gains invaluable experience

Working with RFA shows the voice of the ethanol industry is passionate and hard-working, writes Austin Ludowese. This column appears in the September issue of EPM.
By Austin Ludowese | August 19, 2015

After spending time as the Renewable Fuels Association summer intern, I was asked to take charge of this month’s column and reflect on my experience working in the organization’s St. Louis office. My brother, Evan, spent last summer serving as an intern for RFA, and I was very excited when I received the news that I would be given the same opportunity. Growing up on a farm in Stewart, Minnesota, I have been around the ethanol and agriculture industries my entire life, and realized from a young age that it was the career path that I wanted to follow. When I was not driving a tractor through the fields for my dad, I was a seasonal maintenance worker at Heartland Corn Products, our local 100 MMgy ethanol plant in Winthrop, Minnesota. Through my experiences working on the farm and at the ethanol plant, I have been exposed to the agricultural aspect of what it takes to harvest a corn crop and deliver it to the plant, as well as the production side of how a plant turns corn into ethanol and animal feed.

This summer I had the opportunity to see much of the behind-the-scenes work and in-depth analysis that RFA does as an organization. They have done an exceptional job keeping me busy; working on different projects and exposing me to the marketing, analysis, policy and research work that happens on a daily basis. Some of the projects I worked on include researching trends in the media’s coverage of ethanol, tracking warranties for small engines, tracing ethanol plant ownership history, and continually updating the team’s commodity market data and USDA crop progression workbooks. These experiences have helped me to better understand how the ethanol industry works, and have allowed me to complete the circle when it comes to exposure in the agricultural, production and the behind the scenes operations in the progressive and innovative ethanol world.

I didn’t spend all my time in the office, and had a few opportunities to do some traveling. I was able to return to my home state and attend the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo in Minneapolis. It was an eye-opening experience for me to see thousands of like-minded individuals, as well as attend seminars and gain valuable knowledge from people who have been in the industry for many years. I had an incredible opportunity to testify at the U.S. EPA’s public hearing regarding the renewable fuel standard in Kansas City, Kansas. I spoke about the positive impact that the ethanol industry has had in my community, as well as the vital role it plays for young farmers, like me, to return to their family farms. I attended the RFA board meeting in Washington, D.C., and I spent a week in Sturgis, South Dakota, assisting RFA with a major ethanol promotion featuring “Free Fuel Happy Hours.”

I have known for quite some time now that agriculture will be my future, and I have always been aware of how crucial the ethanol industry is to farmers. But working with RFA has shown me the voice of the ethanol industry is passionate and hard-working. Every day has been an invaluable experience and it gives me motivation and comfort knowing the type of people that help make this industry successful.

Author: Austin Ludowese
Summer Intern
Renewable Fuels Association