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Ethanol producer MME holds second annual meeting

Monday, February 28, 2005

Ryland Utlaut, Mid-Missouri Energy Inc. board president, talks with some of MME's 729 farmer investors at the company's annual meeting in Malta Bend Saturday. The company has just begun to produce ethanol, loading its first railcars with the renewable fuel Tuesday, Feb. 22. Five members were elected to the group's 15-member board at the meeting. Each will serve a three-year term.
Marvin Oerke proudly held up a small vial for a crowd of farmers to see on Saturday. Inside was a liquid with a powerful smell and powerful repercussions for the area. It was denatured ethanol.

Oerke, a member of the Mid-Missouri Energy Inc.'s Board of Directors, showed off some of the substance now being produced just north of Malta Bend at the second annual meeting of MME. Around 200 people, most with a stake in the farmer-owned cooperative, filled the Malta Bend school gym for the meeting.

Spirits were high at the meeting, and for good reason. The ethanol began to flow at the Malta Bend plant early last week, and General Manager Billy Gwaltney said the rate at which it has been being produced is well ahead of what is expected. "It's like cooking, where a precise amount of the ingredients are necessary," Gwaltney said. The MME employees strive to get the recipe perfect.

With 14 railcars filled with ethanol already sold, the company has loaded 23 railcars and three trucks. Mid-Missouri Energy has used more than 80 truckloads of corn in the process.

The selling of byproducts from the ethanol production process is under way as well.

"[There are] 53 semi[truck] loads of distiller's grain on the way to St. Louis this weekend," said Ryland Utlaut, MME board president at the meeting. The grain, made from the refuse of corn ground for ethanol, is reused as feed on farms.

The company continues to look for ways to utilize carbon dioxide, another byproduct of the ethanol production process. Gwaltney said four companies are interested in the plant's CO2, but the board is not rushing to a decision because the choice will impact the company for a long time. "We don't want to make the wrong decision and have to live with it 15 or 20 years," he said.

Gwaltney brought up the possibility of other expansion Saturday, including looking into biodiesel production. Biodiesel produces fuel from natural oils, typically from soybeans.

But as of now, no plans have been announced to do more than look in that direction. "I will tell you that in the short term we will be focused on getting this [ethanol] plant up and running," Utlaut said.

One question on the minds of many attending farmers has yet to be answered; when dividend checks will start to come in, bringing a return on their investment. As of now, that answer is unknown.

Utlaut encouraged farmers to be optimistic. "I think we are on the threshold of an industry that will have a glorious future," he said.

Those present elected five members to three-year terms on the MME board; Ron Gibson, Marvin Oerke, Lester Rolf, Bobby Scheiderer and Jim Wheeler. All were previous members except Scheiderer, who replaces Arthur Kipping.

Contact Matt Heger at


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