Drought cited in ethanol production suspension

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- A central Missouri ethanol plant is suspending production effective Feb. 1, saying the extended drought has made it virtually impossible to get enough corn to make the fuel.

POET Biorefining said Friday that its plant in Macon, Mo., will remain open and all 44 employees will keep working, spending their time doing maintenance-related work.

Spokesman Matt Merritt says there is simply not enough local corn to keep making ethanol at the plant, and shipping in corn from elsewhere is too expensive. Missouri has been hit hard by the drought that has dragged on for months.

Merritt says POET will continue to purchase corn for future use when it becomes available. There is no timetable for resuming production.

Sioux Falls, S.D.-based POET operates 27 plants in seven states.