Identify potential uses
As a result, the various grain and oilseed promotion boards at both the state and national level, began throwing all they had into identifying non-food uses for their dirt cheap commodities. The goal was to identify potential uses of their commodities that would increase utilization of plentiful crops and lift prices out of the basement.
Soybean promotion boards invested in research in everything from bio-diesel to use of soybean oil for dust control on unpaved country roads, to soy ink, to resin-based countertops. Corn promotion boards invested in research to produce bio-degradable clothing fibers, to increased use of high fructose corn syrup, to products made from corn including sunscreens and plasticizers.
But the holy grail of investment was in valued-added enterprises that would use corn locally and increase local employment. The focus was on developing use that would allow farmers to benefit not only from increased corn prices, but also to give them a share in the profits of the firm using their product. Ethanol would do both.
To help jump-start the industry, farmers made what seemed, at the time, a risky investment in facilities to convert below-the-cost-of-production corn into ethanol for fuel. Not only did they invest in the plants, but they also worked tirelessly to obtain government subsidies to help develop the industry and enable it to increase efficiency of the corn-to-ethanol conversion process. They lobbied Midwest legislatures to mandate use of ethanol in all gasoline sold in their states. They pressed Congress to designate ethanol as a fuel oxygenate.
In short, corn and soybean farmers threw everything they could imagine up against the wall in hopes that something would stick. And what stuck was ethanol.