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Driving force
By Tom VanDusen - AgriNews Staff Writer

Thanks to Bud Atkins, I now have in my possession a recent copy of "Ethanol Producer Magazine" which I understand is one of the bible's of the U.S. industry.

Of course, as in all things American-Canadian, that also makes it one of the bibles of the fledgling ethanol industry in this country.

As an indication of the money gushing in and out of the U.S. ethanol industry which is light years ahead of the Canadian version, the glossy monthly magazine is distributed free of charge to all existing and future producers world-wide, including to Bud who keeps tabs on his counterparts from his perch in the Cornwall office of Seaway Valley Farmers Energy Cooperative of which he remains president.

"I had a few extra copies of the magazine and I thought some people who've been following Seaway Valley might like get a look at it," Bud said in offering to mail me one.

Checking out the publication's credentials, one of the first things I noticed was that everybody associated with it in a power position has the last name Bryan: Publisher and president is Mike Bryan, editor-in-chief is Kathy Bryan, director of communications and advertizing sales is Joe Bryan, and Tom Bryan is managing editor. What's up with that?

Whatever! Just as we Canadians love to be noticed and thereby legitimized by the American media in entertainment, politics and other sectors, we love to be noticed in all branches of business, ethanol production being no exception.

And there it is right across the front cover of the March issue of "Ethanol Producer Magazine", a banner directing readers to a feature story inside: "Climate Change Initiatives Could Bring Canada's Industry Out of the Cold". It's not exactly a flattering reference, but certainly an accurate one that Bud agrees with.

As anybody will know who has followed the close to decade-long saga of Seaway Valley, the farmers cooperative - even after raising $16 million locally - has struggled valiantly and often fruitlessly to cobble together the financing package needed to get its planned $50 million corn distilling ethanol plant off the ground.

The latest attempt is happening right now, with First Treasury Financial Inc. of Toronto reviewing the proposal with an eye to putting up the necessary lead financing. Seaway Valley was only able to continue pursuing its quest after the provincial government permitted it to tap into $880,000 in interest on a $3 million grant for much-needed operational funds.

A thumbnail description of Seaway's status is contained in the "Ethanol Producer Magazine" article written by none other than Tom Bryan who over-optimistically states construction in Cornwall is expected to begin within 90 days. A much more guarded Atkins will only confirm that things are looking more positive than they have for a long time.

Writing for an international audience Bryan, who clearly did his homework, points out that, while there's still no "National Renewable Fuels Strategy" in Canada, federal budget provisions are looking portentous.

"New government initiatives, based on a responsible approach to global warming and a value-added approach to agriculture, hold promise for Canada's future ethanol producers."

As both Bryan and Atkins underscore, the drawback is that no announcement has yet been made as to how, when and what amount in cash incentives will flow to those producers.

Bryan goes on to compare excise tax exemptions on ethanol-blended fuel in both countries, along with providing a brief rundown of projects underway in Canada's provinces. While Seaway gets mentioned in Ontario as does Ottawa's Iogen Corp. as a "true ethanol production trailblazer", most of the ink goes to Commercial Alcohols of Chatham and its ongoing expansion activities.

Editorializing in another part of the magazine, none other than Mike Bryan suggests few big businesses have to date invested in ethanol because their motivators are more narrowly focused than farmer-owned cooperatives which have been the industry's driving force in both countries.

"Farmers investing in ethanol production goes beyond profit as the prime motivator. Hiding just below the surface is a deep underlying commitment to help build a strong community, to leave a legacy and carve a place for future generations."

The hands of most ethanol plant board members are rough and chapped from a life of hard work, Bryan says, "hands that when shaken means a promise you can take to the bank."

"So while corporate America is slowly waking up to the potential of ethanol, the ethanol industry will always be an industry built on rural values, firmly rooted in the land."

Perhaps because my name isn't Bryan, I couldn't have said it better myself.



Eastern Ontario AgriNews is published on the third Monday of each month. The printed version is distributed free by postal mail to farms in Eastern Ontario, Canada.

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