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Published March 19, 2012, 10:49 AM

Bringing in the straw

A proposed wheat straw fiber processing plant in Devils Lake, N.D., won’t have trouble obtaining the straw it needs, an official says.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

A proposed wheat straw fiber processing plant in Devils Lake, N.D., won’t have trouble obtaining the straw it needs, an official says.

Though details need be worked out, Ultra Green, which will build and operate the plant, will contract with area farmers for the straw, says Cal Krupa, the company’s president and co-founder.

Ultra Green plans to open the facility late this year in Devils Lake. The Plymouth, Minn.-based company produces environmentally friendly biodegradable products that include pizza pans, tableware and tissue products.

Ultra Green will contract for about 4,000 acres of wheat in 2013, with the number of acres reaching 15,000 to 20,000 annually when the plant reaches full capacity in 2017. The straw will come from within a 50-mile radius of Devils Lake, in north-central North Dakota.

Ultra Green’s chief executive officer, Mack Traynor, is a Fargo, N.D., native with family ties in the Devils Lake area.

“He’s already talked with a lot of farmers in the area,” about supplying straw, Krupa says of Traynor.

Devils Lake — the lake and city share the name — has been rising for years and has quadrupled in size since 1993. About 163,450 acres of producing farmland has been lost to rising lake waters, according to a 2011 study.

The loss of so much farmland doesn’t threaten Ultra Green’s ability to obtain the straw it needs, Krupa says.

Nor does increasing interest among farmers in competing crops, he says.

“Even if there is some reduction (in land planted to wheat), there will be enough available,” he says.

An estimated 125,000 acres of spring wheat were planted in Ramsey County in 2010, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

An average of 115,000 acres of wheat were planted annually in the county from 2005 to 2009, NASS says.

Ultra Green’s target of 15,000 to 20,000 acres annually would represent about 13 to 17 percent of the 2005 to 2009 five-year average and 12 to 16 percent of the country’s 2010 spring wheat acreage.

Devils Lake-area farmers are interested in providing straw, but need to learn specifics before committing, says Bill Hodous, Ramsey County Extension Service agent.

Ultra Green, not farmers, will be responsible for baling the straw, in big, square bales, and transporting it to the plant, where the bales will be stored, Krupa says.

Getting rain on the pre-baled straw “shouldn’t affect us,” but the straw will need to be as free as possible of mold, weeds and foreign matter, he says.


Krupa says farmers interested in supplying straw to the plant can contact him at