A Publication of WTVP

We are fortunate in the Peoria area to have a strong corn-processing base. Three companies, ADM, Midwest Grain, and Williams BioEnergy, own plants that process local corn into ethanol. Ethanol holds the most hope to increase corn prices.

Now the idea of ethanol processing plants has inspired the "roots" of production agriculture. A project idea born in the late 1990s reached the public offering stage. A volunteer group of Fulton County area farmers and agri-business people met one year ago and formed the Central Illinois Ag Coalition (CIAC).

The mission of the CIAC is to direct efforts towards developing a profitable farmer/investor-owned corn processing ethanol plant in central Illinois.

The proposed dry mill facility would be located in Fulton County and cost approximately $40 million to build. The anticipated location is three miles south of Canton. It would utilize 12 million bushels of corn each year, which could be processed into 30 million gallons of ethanol (one bushel of corn produces 2.65 gallons of ethanol).

The plant would create 35 full-time jobs, and value-added advantages for area farmers who would sell corn to the plant. It is estimated an additional $20 million will be added to the local economy with the operation of the plant. The new plant would be named Central Illinois Energy.

The Central Illinois Ag Coalition hopes to raise $16 million from farmers and investors and borrow the remaining $24 million for area lenders. The fund-raising drive began November 15 and is targeting investors from Fulton, Peoria, Knox, McDonough, Schuyler, and Mason Counties. However, anyone who is an Illinois resident is eligible to invest in the venture.

The CIAC President and CIE General Manager is Mike Smith of Canton. He indicated they would like to raise $16 million by February 1. The group is making numerous presentations to local farmers, municipalities, community organizations, bankers and other investors to secure funding and support.

At the beginning of November, more than $125,000 had been raised for the project from farmers and investors and from grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, and others. These monies were used for a feasibility study, which was very favorable, and for the development of a business plan.

If the fund-raising goes as expected, Smith said construction of the ethanol plant could begin in 2002 and be ready to buy corn and make ethanol by 2003.

In other news, the Peoria County Farm Bureau hosted its 89th annual meeting at Dunlap High School November 10. Township directors elected to a two-year term were: Jordan Feucht, Akron; Joe Vonk, Hallock; Nathan Kress, Jubilee; Ron Hohenbery, Limestone; Dick Eagleton, Peoria; Kevin Herrmann, Radnor; and Dennis Worsfold, Trivoli. Retiring directors who completed their six-year tenure include Don Schielein, Chillicothe; Les Callais, Hallock; and Fred Schotthofer Jr., Medina.

Since 1996, the Peoria County Farm Bureau has recognized an individual at the annual meeting with the Ag Service Award. This award is given to a Peoria County resident who has served agriculture by promoting and working for the betterment of the industry through their volunteer efforts.

The 2001 Ag Service Award went to Hazel Fritz of Dunlap. She has been very active in the Illinois Farm Bureau women’s committee, serving in leadership roles. She serves on the Peoria County Farm Bureau board of directors and currently serves on the legislative, public relations and Ag-In-the-Classroom committees, as well as the Peoria County Corn/Soy board of directors. Hazel has also worked with the Illinois Soybean Association as a Bean Booster. IBI