Group wants to start ethanol co-op

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SALEM, Ohio – An Ohio group hopes to be the first to have an ethanol plant in the state.

And if all goes according to plans, that plant could be up and running next year, according to Tom Sporleder.

Sporleder heads Ohio State University’s Farm Income Enhancement Program and is involved in Heartland Agdeavor, a group that helps farmers turn their ideas into business reality.

Defiance County. He’s referring to North West Ethanol, whose construction is planned for Hicksville in Defiance County.

The newest idea is a rebirth of a failed farmer-driven project in the late 1990s, he said.

The plant could produce 50 million gallons of ethanol annually.

Sporleder said Ohio imports 200 million gallons of ethanol each year.

“If my math doesn’t dilute me, [Ohio] could have four plants just to meet that demand,” he said.

New generation. Producer investment in the plant could represent the first new generation cooperative in the state.

In this type of ethanol cooperative, a group of producers commit to deliver corn to the plant. In the process, they make an investment and have partial ownership, Sporleder said.

Their capital investment buys them the right to deliver corn to the facility.

For instance, a farmer can purchase one unit equivalent to 3,500 bushels of corn for $5,000, Sporleder said.

There is no limit to the number of units a producer can buy, but time is running out.

Sporleder said the plant’s equity drive closes this week and producers who want in should contact Heartland soon.

Company formation. Producers joining the cooperative are currently mailing their investment to a locked box, Sporleder said.

He said the response has been positive, but no one knows how much money is inside that box.

If contributions total $1 million, Agdeavor Renewable Energy will come into existence legally and begin the groundwork for the ethanol plant.

If $1 million isn’t raised, all funds will be returned to investors, Sporleder said.

“All kinds of things could go wrong, but at this point we’re reasonably optimistic this will happen,” Sporleder said.

Spread the word. Meetings have been held to spread the word of the investment opportunity on the western side of the state.

Sporleder said investment in the plant is suitable for farmers across Ohio as well as Michigan, Indiana and Pennsylvania.

He could not comment on the geographic distribution of farmer investments already collected.

Background. Heartland Agdeavor’s purpose is to assist farmers in investing in value-added businesses, as well as aid in turning ideas into viable businesses.

The developers of the producer association are with Ohio State University’s agricultural economics department’s Farm Income Enhancement Program and the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.

Learn more. For more information on Heartland Agdeavor, contact Sporleder at 614-292-0286, by e-mail at sporleder.1@osu.edu or online at www.heartlandagdeavor.com.

(Reporter Andrea Myers welcomes reader feedback by phone at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at amyers@farmanddairy.com.)

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