MELROSE, Minn. (AP) – Poultry and livestock producers in central Minnesota are worried that Archer Daniels Midland Co.’s plans to build a regional grain elevator near St. Cloud will drive up their cost of feed, as area farmers choose to sell their crops to the agribusiness giant instead of local customers.
The St. Cloud Times reports the Stearns County Board will debate a conditional use permit Tuesday for the proposed elevators west of St. Cloud.
The critics include turkey producer Pete Rothfork, who is paying around $7 a bushel for the corn that feeds more than a million turkeys on his eight farms — all in Stearns County. If he has to go farther to find suppliers and pay more for grain, Rothfork told the newspaper, he might have to eliminate some of his company’s 30 full-time jobs.
“It’s a huge magnet to suck all the grain out of our county without adding any value to it,” he said. “It’s just going to make a tougher environment to try and do business.”
He said ADM, an international company based in Decatur, Ill., with $62 billion in sales last year — shouldn’t get taxpayer help for a project he fears could drive local farmers out of business.
“ADM can afford to build this facility and run me out of business without any help from the taxpayer or the county,” Rothfork said.
The plan calls for a large grain elevator that could accept corn and soybeans grown in the region, process and dry the crops and load them into rail cars bound for markets out of the state. The site was chosen for its proximity to a railroad and major highways. ADM would initially build four bins that could hold half a million bushels of grain and one that could hold a million bushels. Three more bins would be built as needed.
An ADM spokeswoman declined a request by the Times for an interview. In a letter to the county board last week, ADM President Scott Nagel wrote that the project will be a regional facility that will take grain from 10 counties, not just Stearns. He wrote that not all the grain would be sold to the export market — some will be offered to ethanol plants, feed mills and producers in the area.
The Times reported the project is expected to create eight to 10 jobs.
The increased truck traffic would require an estimated $1.5 million to $2 million in road improvements, and ADM has requested that Stearns County create a tax-increment financing district to pay for them. A TIF is an economic development tool that allows governments to create a special district around a property and use the tax revenue generated there to improve it. In this case, the money would be used to pay for the needed road improvements.
The project has the support of many grain farmers. Allan Dobis, who raises about 100 dairy cows between Avon and Holdingford, grows his own corn for feed and sells any extra. He said he doesn’t sell his corn to local elevators because he can get a better price by selling it to an ethanol plant. He hopes the ADM facility will boost grain prices and, eventually, the price of livestock as well, raising everyone’s profit margins.
“This is good in general for agriculture,” Dobis said.
But poultry producers like Chris Ellering, who raises about 180,000 turkeys a year near Melrose, don’t agree. As home to large growers for Jennie-O turkey and Gold’n Plump chicken, Stearns County has enough livestock to consume all the corn produced in the area without a company the size of ADM taking it, Ellering said.
“The corn is needed here, and it needs to stay here and not be shipped out,” he said.
Leon Klaphake, a turkey farmer and feed mill owner in Melrose, said a hike in grain prices would put Stearns County farmers at a competitive disadvantage.
“I think the impact on the livestock industry could be huge for the number of jobs that are in Stearns County if we’re not able to compete with other parts of the country,” Klaphake said.
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