production: good for the community and the farmers?
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[MARCH 12, 2005]
went to that ethanol awareness meeting on Monday night dead set
against the plant locating just down the road from our house. My
reasons for being against it were that I feared that my property
values would be affected, and when the wind blew out of the
southwest, we would be enveloped in a breath-stealing stench in both
my house and my yard.
After the meeting my fears about odors
coming from the plant were practically eliminated. Brian Wrage from
Illini Bio-Energy assured us that this plant wouldn't produce the
Staley's-like smells I feared. The testimony of people who have
visited similar ethanol plants confirms that Brian Wrage was telling
the truth about this odor issue.
And, if I'm being realistic about the property value issue, my
property values would probably begin to suffer in the long run if
I'm living in a county where the citizenry constantly opposes and
chases away every bit of economic development that requires any
kind of sacrifice. In the long run, this will only be a jobless,
businessless bedroom community with a Wal-Mart and a few fast-food
places. Businesses and industry that pay a living wage are important
to this community.
There were some people at that meeting on Monday night who have a
legitimate concern with the proposed location of the ethanol plant.
They will look out their front windows and see the distillation
towers filling their sight. The railroad spur for the plant will be
right in their backyards. If there is an environmental problem
caused by the plant, it will immediately affect their lives. And, it
is very likely that their property values will decline severely
because no one will want to purchase their homes, should they ever
decide to sell. I have a great deal of sympathy for those people.
Their concerns should be part of every negotiation regarding the
The greatest fears expressed by the crowd at the meeting Monday
night centered on hidden environmental issues. Would the plant
silently poison the environment over time? Would the VOM toxins
cause cancer rates to soar in the area? Would this coal-fired plant
put soot into the air? Would the plant poison the ground water? What
if the product leaked? These were all good questions!
though I heard Brian Wrage's answers and thought they were truth, I
had a hard time trusting answers from anyone in the chemical
industry because so much untruth and hidden problems have happened
in this industry across the world.
So far, though, this short-lived ethanol industry seems to have a
good environmental track record.
My remaining concerns
center around some of the other hidden issues regarding this ethanol
plant. These concerns are about the real economic cost to the
The location of this plant requires the Logan County citizenry to
heavily subsidize the operation of this plant through property and
sales tax abatement. The current proposal is for 10 years of
property tax abatement to the farmland tax level. The figures thrown
around at that meeting indicated that the plant will likely pay some
$350,000 a year in property taxes. It is roughly estimated that the
infrastructure costs for roads will be about $6 million over
that 10-year time period. The proposal also calls for the complete
abatement of the county's portion of sales taxes for operating
supplies purchased in the county over the next 10 years. My
calculator tells me that leaves the taxpayers of Logan County with
the remaining cost of some $2.5 million over 10 years.
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column in this article]
I received a number of responses this week to my
about the ethanol meeting. Some of them were from
ethanol industry insiders. They told the story of ethanol plant
startups across the country that offered the area farmers an
independent market for their grain. The farmers joined these co-ops,
signed contracts for the sale of their corn and invested heavily in
them, thinking this would help their family farms survive. Local
investors for these plants provided only about one-third of the
moneys needed for construction and operations to begin. These
ethanol co-ops then solicited outside investments in order to
complete their projects and found eager LLCs (limited liability
companies) who filled their coffers and allowed the plants to be
built and operations to start.
These LLCs don't have to disclose who's behind the money. It has
turned out across the country that these shadowy LLCs are owned by
the same mega-grain giants that dominate agribusiness across the
country, and across the world. These giants manipulate grain prices
for their own profit and repress and crush the independent farmer
with their power by keeping grain prices too low. Having a 60
in the local ethanol co-op allows them to control the prices paid for
the crops of independent farmers who had hoped for and been promised
better prices for their product.
So, my remaining question is: Who will ultimately own and control the
county's future? Will the promise made to local farmers to have a
legitimate, new market to sell their corn to, untainted by the
tyranny of the mega-agribusiness giants who currently repress grain
prices for their own profits, be upheld? Or will Logan County be
held even tighter in the clutches of the "super-markup to the
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Life Sentence, No Parole
If we tried to invent the
cruelest punishment for dogs, we probably couldn't come up with
anything worse than "solitary confinement" on a chain or in a
Dogs are pack animals who
crave the companionship of others. Scratches behind the ears,
games of fetch, or even just walks around the block mean the
world to them. Curling up at your feet while you watch TV is
their idea of heaven.
Many dogs left to fend for
themselves at the end of a chain fall prey to attacks by other
animals or cruel people, and many others are injured or hanged
or choke as a result of getting entangled or caught in their
If you have a backyard dog,
please, bring him or her inside. They don't want much--just
service announcement from Lincoln Daily News and