Charities backs the construction of Carrollton ethanol plant
By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
CARROLLTON - For the second time in a decade, Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph is providing seed money for a plan to build a factory to turn corn into clean-burning ethanol fuel for automobiles.
Kevin Kelly/Key photo
Mike Halterman presents a check for $25,000 to Don Arth, vice-chairman of Mid-Missouri Energy, Inc. Looking on is Patty Kinder, Father Ken Criqui, and Father Thomas Hermes.
Charities chief executive officer Mike Halterman on Nov. 12 presented a check for $25,000 to Mid-Missouri Energy, Inc., a farmer-owned cooperative that is forming to build a plant in or near Carrollton that will produce some 40 million gallons of ethanol.
The funds, Halterman said, came from the success of the first ethanol plant that Charities helped move from the drawing board to reality.
In 1994, Charities gave $40,000 in seed money to Golden Triangle Cooperative. That factory opened in 2001 in Craig in northwest Missouri. In return for the early grant, Golden Triangle issued Charities two-for-one stock, which it then purchased back for nearly $90,000 to make the cooperative entirely farmer-owned.
Halterman said that money was placed into a special Catholic Charities account to be used solely for economic development initiatives in rural areas of the diocese.
He said the Mid-America grant was issued "with no strings attached" solely to get the project moving ahead.
"This one will be right in the heart of corn country," Halterman said.
The cooperative was formed to help farmers realize profits from the products of the corn they grow.
Don Arth, vice-chairman of Mid-Missouri Energy, said investor-farmers will agree to sell their corn at market rates, currently $2.20 per bushel, to the ethanol cooperative.
As owners of the plant, corn farmers will also receive year-end dividend checks from the profits of selling ethanol, which is blended with gasoline to make a cleaner, more environmentally friendly fuel for internal combustion engines. Ethanol now sells for $1.20 per gallon.
"We're adding value to our product," said Ron Linneman, a farmer and member of the Mid-Missouri Energy board.
Mid-Missouri Energy hopes to attract farmer-investors from 19 counties surrounding Carrollton, Arth said.
But first it needed to raise $350,000 in "seed money" to pull together a business plan in order to leverage other government and private grants and loans from financial institutions.
When Father Ken Criqui learned of Mid-Missouri Energy's plan, he contacted Halterman. Halterman then contacted Patty Kinder, director of the Carroll County Economic Development Council, which is helping to spearhead fund-raising for the plant.
Father Criqui said anything that will boost the economy in and around Carroll County is badly needed.
He noted that some 100 families in Carrollton each year receive food baskets during the holidays because of the support Catholics throughout the diocese give to the annual Bishop's Emergency Assistance Fund collection in February.
Father Thomas Hermes, pastor of Holy Rosary Parish in Clinton and a member of the Catholic Charities board, said deep poverty exists in rural areas as well as in urban areas.
"One of the things Mike was asked to do was to put focus on rural areas," Father Hermes said. "People are moving out because there is no economic opportunity and no way to make money. We need to continue to help farmers and rural communities to find more economic opportunities."
The check from Catholic Charities provides a key part of the funds necessary to move plans for the plant forward, leaders of Mid-Missouri Energy said.
Noting that the plant will also provide 32 full time jobs, and will be built with the capability to double its capacity, Arth said the plant will be a boon to the entire region.
"It doesn't just help farmers," he said. "It helps the economy of the entire area."