Nebraska ethanol plants could not use treated seed corn as a fuel stock under a bill heard Feb. 3 by the Natural Resources Committee.
LB507, introduced by Sen. Bruce Bostelman of Brainard, would prohibit the use of treated seed corn in the production of agricultural ethyl alcohol if its use results in the generation of a byproduct that is deemed unsafe for livestock consumption or land application.
Bostelman said an ethanol plant near Mead has been using treated seed corn as a fuel stock and is storing the byproduct — which contains unsafe levels of insecticide — onsite, leading to concerns about groundwater contamination and other environmental problems.
“This process is not environmentally safe, nor is it commonly used in the production of ethanol,” he said. “By eliminating the use of the treated seed corn, we can make certain that ethanol producers do not use treated byproducts now and will not use them in the future.”
Jody Weible of Mead testified in support of the bill, saying regulators so far have not forced the plant to dispose of the byproduct. She said she fears that the toxins in the waste, which is sitting on the ground, will contaminate the area’s water supply.
Al Davis testified in support of LB507 on behalf of the Nebraska chapter of the Sierra Club. He said the byproduct at the Mead plant contains high levels of neonicotinoids, an insecticide that is toxic to invertebrates, insects, birds and mammals and subject to partial bans in Canada and the European Union.
Dr. Judy Wu-Smart, an assistant professor and extension specialist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, gave neutral testimony on her own behalf.
Wu-Smart said bee deaths at research apiaries at the UNL extension center in Mead for the past several years could be associated with high levels of neonicotinoids found at the plant, which is within the bees’ foraging range.
No one testified in opposition to the bill and the committee took no immediate action on it.