Gutknecht tours Claremont ethanol plant; talks of Farm Bill

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 2, 2000

CLAREMONT – Larry Combest must have been impressed when he first saw the white plumes of smoke coming from the stacks at the Al-Corn Clean Fuel ethanol plant.

Saturday, September 02, 2000

CLAREMONT – Larry Combest must have been impressed when he first saw the white plumes of smoke coming from the stacks at the Al-Corn Clean Fuel ethanol plant.

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When he stepped outside the van, there was nothing to sniff.

When he walked through he facility with general manager Randy Doyal conducting the tour, it was a dazzling display: Whole corn unloaded into a hammer mill and then taken on a process that turned it into a fuel additive and other valuable byproducts.

Who better to impress than a powerful congressmen who chairs the committee that decides farm policy?

And, where else to impress the same congressmen with farmers’ own efforts to add value to their product than an ethanol product?

Al-Corn’s current annual production is 15.5 million gallons of ethanol and 45,000 tons of dried distillers grains with solubles.

The $19 million plant opened in May 1996. This year, it will process 6.3 million bushels of corn and create 18 million gallons of ethanol, according to Doyal.

Approximately 340 shareholders raised 50 percent of the capital to construct the plant, or near $9.25 million and the remaining $9.5 million was financed by CoBank of Omaha, Neb.

Ethanol-blended gasolines keep America’s motorists going and American farmers growing more corn.

"What’s happening in Minnesota is very, very encouraging," said Combest. "We must create a farm program to maximize the profitability of farmers and developing ethanol plants helps more farmers and helps them a lot longer than anything else."

Combest is the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives agriculture committee. He was invited to Minnesota by First District Congressman Gil Gutknecht. The pair visited the Minnesota State Fair on Friday and the Claremont ethanol plant and a dairy farm at Zumbrota Saturday.

They were joined on the ethanol plant tour by representatives of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association as well as Gary Pestorious of the Exol Corporation ethanol plant at Glenville.

Both Gutknecht and Combest said to continue driving a wedge between the oil and ethanol industries is wrong and the Claremont plant’s general manager, Doyal, agreed.

"That’s not only stupid, it’s insane. Who do we rely on to buy our product? The oil industry, of course," said Doyal.

Both Combest from Texas and Minnesota’s Gutknecht said Congress should take notice of the success of the ethanol industry as they consider a new Farm Bill.

Combest talked bluntly about what kind of new Farm Bill he wants to see enacted.

"We have to recognize the need for a farm policy that benefits the small farmers, while not taking away from the large farmers and vice versa," he said, "and there should be no farm policy that rewards inefficient operations while penalizing the efficient ones."

While confessing the House agriculture committee does not oversee transportation issues, such as the modernization of the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway locks and dams, Combest registered strong support for the upgrades.

"We should maximize the movement of our ag products between the producers and the world markets that are so important to them," he said.