Supporters of ethanol bill rally at State Capitol

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

JEFFERSON CITY -- Two charter buses containing area farmers, ethanol plant members/investors business officials and FFA students interested in Mid-Missouri Energy in Malta Bend joined other groups from across Missouri traveling to the State Capitol in Jefferson City Tuesday to take part in the "Missouri Energy Independence Rally."

The rally was to show support for the Missouri Renewable Fuel Standard (MoRFS), legislation requiring 10 percent ethanol be included in nearly all gasoline sold in the state.

The crowd of 300 people -- and several ethanol vehicles parked on the sidewalks -- included representatives from operating ethanol plants in Macon and Craig and proposed plants as far away as the Missouri Bootheel.

"I think this is an extremely exciting time for the state of Missouri," Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons said.

"As we move into the direction of renewable fuels and ethanol and guaranteeing it becomes part of our fuel supply, it's extremely important for our state -- both urban and rural," he said.

"I think it is a win, win, win for everybody in Missouri," Gibbons said. The win-win sentiment was expressed by many of the other speakers at the rally, which included House Speaker Rod Jetton and bill sponsors state Sen. John Cauthorn, R-Mexico, and state Rep. Bob Behnen, R-Kirksville.

Also attending were Missouri Corn Growers Association President Terry Hilgedick; MCGA Chief Executive Officer Gary Marshall and state Rep. Joe Aull , D-Marshall. The master of ceremonies was Ryland Utlaut of Waverly, farmer and president of MME.

The local group loaded the two buses at stops in Carrollton, Malta Bend and Marshall before heading to the Missouri Farm Bureau building for lunch. The day ended in the capitol halls as the farmers and FFA students turned lobbyists, speaking to representatives and senators from across the state, giving them more information and answering questions about the legislation.

During the lunch and rally, the speakers talked about the benefits of the bill and encouraged the crowd to tell the same things to the representatives they would talk to later that afternoon.

"You're the dependable people, you're not fighting amongst yourselves all the time. You're trying to make a living. You're trying to say we will supply a percentage of your energy, make Missouri less dependent on the Middle East and provide for your families," said Sen. Cauthorn.

Those sentiments were echoed by other speakers.

"You're here to tell your story, what it means to you on a personal level. That's what they want to hear," said Hilgedick.

Aull said it was important for the group to talk to representatives. "There are a lot of issues that people aren't either in favor of or opposed to. They just don't know that much about it," said Aull. "If they get a lot more people in favor of it then they are likely to vote for it," he added.

Overall, the group reported mostly a positive reception for the bill. They also emphasized how important it was for them to come though.

"If we don't speak up, then somebody else will for us," said Brian Miles, a Marshall farmer and MME board member.

Marshall FFA President Brittaney Wade said Miles' comment was something she learned during the day. "We learned people are told different things."

Rally organizers were happy with the large number from MME that traveled for the rally.

"I am very, very pleased with the number of farmers who came out, especially on a day like this. We can all think of things we would rather do," said Utlaut.

"I was thoroughly pleased with the speakers that were willing to come out to speak with us today. It was a very worthwhile event," he said, emphasizing the fact that the House speaker and the Senate President pro-tem both spoke to the group and are strong supporters of the bill. The governor, who also supports the bill, was out of town Tuesday.

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