INDIANAPOLIS — Industry representatives discussed the importance of ethanol to corn farmers, the economy and local communities at this year’s Indiana Ethanol Forum at Andretti Autosport in Indianapolis.

Representatives from different industries and state and local leaders met to discuss ethanol and how it created more than 4,100 jobs in Indiana and accounted for $538 million in gross state product last year, according to a recent study by ABF Economics.

Indiana Corn Growers Association President Herb Ringel asked those who attended to support the biofuels industry by contacting their congressman in support of the Renewable Fuel Standard.

The standard is a federal law that requires the blending of domestic, renewable, cleaner-burning corn ethanol and soy biodiesel in the nation’s fuel supply. Last fall, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a significant cut to U.S. biofuels.

Indiana Agriculture Director Ted McKinney spoke of his passion for 4-H and FFA and how at each meeting FFA members have to answer the question why they are here. He used that question to ask why attendees were at the forum.

“From my perspective, ethanol is not just good for farmers — it’s good for consumers,” he said.

Ethanol offers options to consumers and also is good for the community by creating jobs, boosting the tax base and more, McKinney said.

Although there are many benefits, there also are many challenges. The ethanol industry’s task is large, McKinney said.

“There might have been a day farms were celebrated, but those days are waning or gone,” he said. “We have to go our own way, and we need to tell our stories.”

Other speakers spoke of midlevel ethanol blends, the environmental benefits of flex fuels and more.

Jamie Wohner, director of fuel sales for Thortons Inc., talked on how to price E85. To increase product use, the fuel needs to be priced 20 percent less. E85 is being sold by Thortons in six states at 73 stores.

Dean Drake, president of the Defour Group, spoke on a road map to higher ethanol blends. Drake said it can be done and is the logical next step.

“Corn ethanol is the one leading the way, but change will not happen without proactive leadership,” he said.

Another speaker, Scott Zaremba, with Zarco USA, spoke about selling renewable. Challenges facing retailers is customer acceptance, which can be increased through education, he said.

All agreed that education on the benefits of ethanol needs to continue.