Nebraska Ethanol Producers looking for new leadership

Source: By NICHOLAS BERGIN | LINCOLN JOURNAL STAR • Posted: Monday, August 10, 2015

The Association of Nebraska Ethanol Producers, which serves as the voice for industry in the state, is hunting for a new executive director and pushing aside the man who was instrumental in founding the group.

Lobbyist and former state Senator Loran Schmit was midwife to the association’s birth in 2008 and has been its executive director since.

The 85-year-old has been promoting ethanol since the 1950s. He helped pass legislation in 1971 that established the precursor to the Nebraska Ethanol Board, known as the Gasohol Committee. His efforts earned him the moniker “father of gasohol.”

Ethanol is big business in Nebraska, which is the second largest producer of the fuel additive behind Iowa. The state’s 24 ethanol production plants employ 1,300 people.

Ethanol added nearly $5 billion to the Nebraska economy last year, according to estimates by the University of Nebraska.

In the 2000s, Legislators told Schmit (then a lobbyist for nine ethanol businesses) they were getting confused messages from the state’s ethanol producers.

He brought his clients and others together to form the Associations of Nebraska Ethanol Producers, a nonprofit industry funded organization, so they could discuss issues and speak with a single clear voice. The new association contracted with Schmit’s business, Schmit Industries, for management.

Earlier this summer, the association’s executive committee decided it’s time for an overhaul, said President Ralph Scott of Trenton Agri Products in Trenton.

Scott said the association would like to continue a relationship with Schmit as a lobbyist.

“We’re just trying to get some new blood into the organization,” Scott said.

Scott said member groups are still sorting out many of the details of the reorganization and the direction they would like the association to take in the future, including a bigger marketing push for ethanol blended fuel and getting the state government to convert its fleet of vehicles to burn E15 or higher blends.

The Nebraska group has contracted with the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association to coordinate the search for a new executive director.

Some of the region’s largest ethanol producers, including Archer Daniels Midlands and Green Plains, are members of both state groups and the Iowa association went through its own reorganization in 2005 making it ideally situated to assist in the transition, said Monte Shaw, Executive Director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association.

“They (Nebraska producers) have a successful operation … but they are at a point in time where they have the members, they have the revenue and they want to bring it (management) in house,” Shaw said.

“Whoever the new executive director is is going to be on the ground floor shaping what the new structure is going to look like.”

Shaw said he hopes to have resumes compiled by the end of the month and for the Nebraska association to decide on its new director by October.

Schmit declined to comment about the association’s decision to hire a new director.