Jeff Broin, whose experiments on a Minnesota farm in the 1980s gave birth to the giant ethanol company Poet, is stepping down as chief executive officer after 25 years, the Sioux Falls-based company said Tuesday.

He will be replaced by Jeff Lautt, 40, who has been with Poet since 2005, serving most recently as president, the company said.

Broin, 46, will continue on the company's board as executive chairman.

"After 25 years leading the company, I wanted to spend more time with my family and take on new challenges," Broin said in a statement released by Poet.

Broin, who is married with three children, said he wouldn't be stepping down "had I not been convinced that the company would be in good hands. Under the leadership of Jeff Lautt and the entire management team at Poet, I have confidence that the company will continue to lead the industry into the future."

The Broin family first began experimenting with ethanol production in 1983 on the family farm in Wanamingo, Minn. In 1987, the family purchased a foreclosed ethanol plant in South Dakota and launched their privately held company that now owns or manages 21 ethanol plants, including four in Minnesota, that produce more than 1.6 billion gallons of ethanol a year.

According to Ethanol Producer Magazine, Poet is the second-largest U.S. ethanol producer, just behind Archer Daniels Midland Co. The two companies have shifted position over time, with Poet sometimes at No. 1.

In March, Poet and a Dutch company, Royal DSM, broke ground in Emmetsburg, Iowa, on a $250 million cellulosic ethanol plant that will produce fuel from corn stalks and cobs.

Broin will continue to serve as co-chairman of Growth Energy, which lobbies for ethanol. He also intends to work with his newly created foundation, "Teach a Man to Fish." The foundation's mission is to spread the power of agriculture in the developing world.

David Shaffer • 612-673-7090