Bill would force Nebraska ethanol plant to stop using pesticide-treated seed corn

Source: By Paul Hammel, Omaha World-Herald • Posted: Thursday, February 4, 2021

LINCOLN — State lawmakers were urged Wednesday to quickly advance and pass a bill that would force an ethanol plant near Mead to stop using pesticide-treated seed corn to produce fuel.

Nearby residents have been complaining since 2018, without resolution, about adverse health effects and potential groundwater contamination from tens of thousands of tons of pesticide-laden corn waste after the ethanol process at the AltEn plant, a state legislative committee was told.

Former State Sen. Loran Schmit said he was mystified that the state had permitted the facility near Mead to use excess seed corn, coated in pesticides, to produce ethanol.

No other ethanol plants have ever been willing to “take a chance” using such contaminated grain, said Schmit, who championed the ethanol industry in the Legislature in the 1970s and later as a lobbyist.

“It’s important that this practice stop, and the practice stop immediately,” he said.

The AltEn plant has been given a deadline of March 1 by state regulators to remove the grain piles at their plant.

State Sen. Bruce Bostelman of Brainard, who introduced Legislative Bill 507 to force some action, said the company has two options: find a licensed landfill that will take the leftover grain, or incinerate it.

Typical ethanol plants, which use field corn, produce leftover “distillers grain” that is a prized cattle feed. But AltEn’s leftover grain cannot be fed to livestock because of the residual neonicotinoids, which a representative of the Sierra Club said has been traced to the huge decline in birds worldwide and other environmental problems.