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Posted on  

November 15, 2002

No Word on Seaway Assistance

Neither provincial nor federal officials are making any promises on helping the co-op.

More than a month after meeting with provincial and cabinet ministers and senior federal representatives in Kemptville, Seaway Valley Farmers Energy Co-Operative is still awaiting word about the assistance it needs to save its proposed $50 million Cornwall ethanol plant.

Seaway president Bud Atkins said he's hoping to discucss any stumbling blocks to providing loan guarantees neceessary to pry loose about $30 million in debt finaincing.

While everyone present in Kemptville showed an interest, no one has yet stepped up to the plate, Atkins said. He's trying to arrange another meeting with the same players to determine where they now stand.

Time is running out, with co-op members having agreed to meet early in the New Year to either pull the plug on, or proceed with, the financially troubled project. After six years of trying, all concerned now agree the project will never go ahead without government backing.

Lynda McCuaig, president of the Ottawa Valley Seed Growers Association - a major investor in the project, has sent a letter of support to Deputy Prime Minister John Manley and to Ontario Premier Ernie Eves. "In many ways, our project has blazed a trail for ethanol production in this country," McCuaig wrote. "It's time for the government to lend a hand in getting this valuable project off the ground."

It would be "very unfortunate," McCuaig continued, if the hundreds of farm familes, which have invested in the project as a way of establishing another outlet for their annual corn production, were to end up with nothing to show for it."

John Cleary, Liberal MPP for Stormont-Dundas and Charlottenburgh in which the plant site lies, has also gone to bat for it, raising the issue in the provincial legislature on two recent occasions, including asking Energy Minister John Baird for a commitment. Baird, and an Ottawa MPP who attended the Kemptville meeting of ministers, would go no further than to call the plant an "important initiative."

"Whether or not that will eventually translate into loan guarantees remains to be seen," Atkins said, adding, the cleaner fuel culture promoted under the proposed Kyoto Accord has a lot to do with a sudden awakening of interest by the federal and provincal governments.

If senior government officials don't adopt an American-style financing model, the ethanol plant is likely dead in the water."

In the U.S., about 70 ethanol plants will be on stream by the end of this year, all of them heavily backed by the American government.

"Seaway Valley needs that kind of support now," McCuaig said.

By Tom Van Dusen - Ontario Farmer 


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