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TAP Stands Strong after Two-Decades of Community and Agriculture Betterment

Twenty years ago, in March, the switch to power up the Trenton Agri Products (TAP) Ethanol Plant was flipped. What a phenomenal success story it is.
It’s a story that goes well beyond the Trenton Agri Products operation. It’s about how this agriculture-based business has brought some stability and breathed new life into a struggling rural community with local jobs and a tax base while at the same time supporting local farming and livestock operations that are at the foundation of the local economy.
According to public records, TAP has a local tax valuation of over $16.6 Million. In 2023, the company paid over $200,000 in local property taxes. Since 2004, they have spent over $6 Million In local taxes. The plant employs 36 people and produces 53 million gallons of ethanol a year from 18 million bushels of corn. For comparison, as you drive by the plant on Highway 34, there is a 1.5 million bushel pile of corn on the site they will use when the regular supply of corn slows. They can grind that in a month. When the plant opened, it produced 30 million gallons a year. They produce 17 million pounds of corn oil a year. TAP started producing corn oil in 2014. They also produce 350,000 tons of distillers grains that go to some 30 cattle feed-yards.
Tom Baker of rural Trenton, the Trails West fuel station owner, and a local farming operation said TAP has been “tremendous” for Trenton and the county. “It was such a big shot in the arm; I don’t know where we would be without it.”
Baker was a Nebraska State Senator when work was done to get the plant started. His father, Ben, was involved in the planning, as well as former Trenton resident Ev Huddleson and the late Jerry Williams, who owned the land where the plant is located. They had many hurdles and were dedicated to getting the ethanol plant.
They turned to the local oil company Berexco, who got behind the project. Charles Wilson, who was TAP President from the start of the plant to his retirement a few years ago, was also a firm believer in the project.
After Wilson retired about three years ago, Tony Leiding took over as TAP President. He’s been with the company for almost nine years. Joe Shanle took over as TAP VP of Operations, replacing former Plant Manager Ralph Scott four years ago.
  Leiding and Shanle take a lot of pride in their work and in the relationships TAP has built over the years with the farmers and livestock producers they do business with and the plant employees, as well as the relationship and support with the community and county.
“We take pride in the tax dollars and the good-paying jobs we provide,” said Leiding. Despite all the ups and downs, even through COVID, we have never laid off any employees.”
He added that they will always care for their existing customers in a growing demand for cattle feed.
Leiding explained that their goal is to maintain a clean and efficient facility, and they plan to continue for a long time. He said a big part of the future is VP of Operations Joe Shanle. “I can’t stress enough how critical he has been.”
Shanle said that their primary focus over the last 4-years is streamlining and making the plant as efficient as possible and getting the most product that can, most economically, from every bushel of corn they take in. “Our industry is maturing, and as the ethanol industry is maturing, our margins become thinner and thinner,” he explained. “So that forces us to become more and more efficient, and we have taken several steps to try and do that in the last four years.”
He said they have done several projects at the plant in the last few years. Much of the work has gone on on the southwest side of the plant, which isn’t visible from the highway. They are currently in the midst of a big project to build a new fermenter that will help improve the efficiency of getting everything they can out of every kernel of corn. He said the new fermentor will allow them to utilize different genetically modified yeasts that will yield more ethanal and corn oil out of a bushel of corn.
Shanle said one of the things they do differently than other ethanol plants is to be more open to the public. He said that they give a tour to the Nebraska LEAD group, local 4Hers, and other groups every year. They want people to know and understand what they do and what ethanol is and is used for. Shanle said it helps people understand how buying ethanol blend fuels helps their local community, farmers, livestock owners, and agriculture.
Leiding said the future for ethanol is promising, especially if the demand for higher blended fuels grows. “I encourage everyone to use higher blended ethanol gasoline at the pump. This is an easy way to support your local economy from the farmers, to the cattle feeders, the truckers, and local jobs. “
The 20-year success story of Trenton Agri Products starts at the gas pumps as it creates the demand for what the plant makes, but that is just the beginning. Shanle said that when thinking about the plant and what it has done and meant over the last 20 years, it comes down to “community.”
He said everyone in Trenton and Hitchcock County has been so supportive of the ethanol plant. From the farmer who brings us their corn, the distillers for the cattle producer, the 36 local jobs, all the added service businesses the plant uses, to the tax support that goes to the school and county governments, the TAP success story is about community.
“Our industry is maturing, and as the ethanol industry is maturing, our margins become thinner and thinner,” he explained. “So that forces us to become more and more efficient, and we have taken several steps to try and do that in the last four years.” He said they have done several projects at the plant in the last few years. Much of the work has gone on on the southwest side of the plant, which isn’t visible from the highway. They are currently in the midst of a big project to build a new fermenter that will help improve the efficiency of getting everything they can out of every kernel of corn. He said the new fermentor will allow them to utilize different genetically modified yeasts that will yield more ethanal and corn oil out of a bushel of corn. Shanle said one of the things they do differently than other ethanol plants is to be more open to the public. He said that they give a tour to the Nebraska LEAD group, local 4Hers, and other groups every year. They want people to know and understand what they do and what ethanol is and is used for. Shanle said it helps people understand how buying ethanol blend fuels helps their local community, farmers, livestock owners, and agriculture. Leiding said the future for ethanol is promising, especially if the demand for higher blended fuels grows. “I encourage everyone to use higher blended ethanol gasoline at the pump. This is an easy way to support your local economy from the farmers, to the cattle feeders, the truckers, and local jobs. ” The 20-year success story of Trenton Agri Products starts at the gas pumps as it creates the demand for what the plant makes, but that is just the beginning. Shanle said that when thinking about the plant and what it has done and meant over the last 20 years, it comes down to “community.” He said everyone in Trenton and Hitchcock County has been so supportive of the ethanol plant. From the farmer who brings us their corn, the distillers for the cattle producer, the 36 local jobs, all the added service businesses the plant uses, to the tax support that goes to the school and county governments, the TAP success story is about community.

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