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Posted on  

March 29, 2002

Another group considers ethanol plant in Missouri

A group of about 130 people - mostly farmers- gathered at Santa Fe High School in Alma, Mo. Wednesday at the second such meeting held to discuss a proposed producer-owned ethanol plant.

Despite reports that Renewable Power of Missouri owner Phil Danforth continues to close in on deals to build a 30-million gallon ethanol plant in Marshall, two groups of farmers are spearheading a project which would have a second, farmer-owned plant also built in the area.

Mid-Missouri Energy Group, a group of farmers who formed to consider a partnership with Danforth’s Marshall plant before talks fell through, and the Carrollton-based Farmers Steering Committee have teamed up to encourage farmers in all of the surrounding counties, including Lafayette, Pettis, Saline and Carroll counties, to contribute to a feasibility study.

“When we organized the Mid-Missouri Energy Group, we tried to tap other counties (because) all of us realize we’re all going to have to work together if we’re going to have a farmer-owned effort,” said Ryland Utlaut, chairman of Mid-Missouri Energy and a member of the Farmers Steering Committee.

“This is the time in our country when renewable is becoming fad,” he added. “But to some extent the ethanol market and bio-diesel market depend on political discussions in Washington, D.C., we can’t kid ourselves about that.”

Utlaut, a producer in western Saline County, joined Patty Kinder, the director of the Carrollton Area Chamber of Commerce, Farmers Steering Committee Chairman Ron Linneman and Janey Cline, director of value added development for the Missouri Corn Growers Association, on a panel which presented the proposal and fielded questions from farmers in attendance.

To kick off the project, the group is looking to generate enough interest to qualify for a $200,000 grant from the Missouri Department of Agriculture which would help pay the $300,000 needed to conduct a feasibility study.

“You’ve heard the word feasibility study a number of times tonight, that is the first stepping stone,” noted Cline. “These are steps you can’t get around, they have to be done.”

The panel explained the site, size and other details on the facility would come later, as well as a massive fund-raising campaign to pay for the plant.

About 130 farmers also attended a meeting in Carrollton earlier this month to discuss the proposal and both groups have been urged to help raise money to show strong local interest for the grant application, which has a deadline of April 8.

“If we don’t get the steps together we can’t go forward in the project, it’s that simple,” said Linneman.

With increased environmental restrictions, excise taxes and renewable fuel subsidies being discussed at the state and federal government levels the demand for ethanol is expected to increase rapidly across the U.S., an industry change many in the agricultural industry hope to take advantage of.

“With a farmer-owned plant we can’t lose,” noted one farmer. “If the cost of corn is up, we win, if it’s down the plant profits. We can’t lose, but we have to own the plant.”



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