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Congress Gets Ethanol Ownership Bill

Proposal would require ethanol plants to accept local investment.

There might be more opportunities to invest in ethanol and biodiesel plants in the future.

Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., and Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., have introduced legislation that would require any bio-refinery financed with federal funding to provide local residents an opportunity to invest in the bio-refinery.

"The ethanol and biodiesel industries have been a phenomenal success story for Minnesota's farmers and rural communities, but the significance of renewable fuels to rural America is about more than just creating another market for farmers' crops," Coleman says. "The entire community benefits when local folks invest in these plants by adding value to crops locally and keeping more wealth at home."

The bill seeks to preserve local ownership of bio-refineries by requiring bio-refineries that are financed with a federal loan, loan guarantee, or grant to provide local investors residing within 50 miles of the ethanol plant an opportunity to invest in the bio-refinery. Farmer-owned cooperatives financing a bio-refinery with federal funds will be considered as having met this requirement. Forty percent of the biorefinery investment would need to be made available for a period of 60 days, and no one local investor could own more than 2.5%.

"Any investment in renewable fuels is a good thing, but as we see more and more money from Wall Street enter the industry, I want to ensure our local communities continue to have the chance to benefit from this growing industry," Coleman says. "I will continue to push this bill in both the energy bill and the farm bill, and I believe it's a proposal that will continue to build bipartisan support as an issue that resonates with rural communities across the nation."

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