MAXVILLE - No formal vote was taken but the mood of the Seaway Valley Farmers' Energy Co-Operative annual meeting July 14 was to stay on track with plans for a long-awaited $50 million ethanol distilling plant at Cornwall.
"We're only $1.3 million short," said co-op president Bud Atkins following the meeting which saw himself and three other incumbent directors acclaimed for another year. The co-op constitution calls for re-election of four members every year with the board to set the executive.
Atkins suggested the equity shortfall will trickle in by the end of August, including a possible contribution from the federal CanAdapt program, with a final decision on the fate of the plant to be made in September, one of countless times that decision has been delayed.
The president said core co-op members are "happy" with the current situation. He estimated attendance at the meeting at about 100, far short of the 500-600 he had predicted.
Atkins said about $5.4 million in new local funding has been secured which, while it falls short of a $6.7 million target set by major investor Netherlands-based Rabobank, is encouraging.
"There's still another couple of hundred thousand out there that hasn't come in and we circulated pledge forms at the meeting," Atkins said. "I'm hoping when it's all counted, there'll be enough for everybody to say let's go."
After a deal in principle is cut, Atkins estimated at least two months will be needed to secure final agreements and to put all the paperwork in place. He added the fact so much extra cash has been raised within a very tight time frame indicates a high level of commitment to the plant.
"And all of that new funding came from about 25 per cent of our members."
Seaway director Richard Lavigne said he was heartened by the response of "average eastern Ontario farmers" who've invested and re-invested in the $50 million dream.
"I'd go to a farm expecting to pick up, say $15,000, and I'd walk away with $20,000. The husband, wife and kids would often kick in some more. One young lady who isn't even involved in agriculture gave $5000 and then turned around and gave $5000 more."
When the plant is in operation, Seaway plans to spend about $26 million on 6.6 million bushels of locally grown corn every year. The plant expects to achieve gross revenues of close to $54 million through the sale of fuel and industrial grade ethanol, dry distillers grain and carbon dioxide. With those sales, number crunchers have predicted a potential profit of close to $11 million a year.