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Published March 26, 2014, 10:44 AM

UFC breaks ground on Minn. grain facility

United Farmers Co-op ceremonially broke ground late Tuesday afternoon on a 1-million-bushel grain storage facility in Bigelow, Minn. Dirt work on the multi-million dollar construction project will begin today, with completion anticipated by soybean harvest this fall.

By: Julie Buntjer , Forum News Service

BIGELOW, Minn. — United Farmers Co-op ceremonially broke ground late Tuesday afternoon on a 1-million-bushel grain storage facility in Bigelow, Minn. Dirt work on the multi-million dollar construction project will begin today, with completion anticipated by soybean harvest this fall.

UFC General Manager Jeff Christensen, of George, Iowa, says the board of directors approved the new construction after the existing elevator was taken out of service last spring. The new facility will nearly double grain storage capabilities at Bigelow, and will also provide for faster grain handling operations, he says.

“The past 15 to 20 years we have seen the size of farm equipment grow past the ability of the local elevators to handle it,” Christensen says. “It is our hope that with this new facility and the existing facilities in Bigelow, the turnaround time of the tractors and trucks delivering grain to Bigelow will be at an all-time high.”

Christensen says board members had planned to eventually replace the 550,000-bushel capacity elevator at Bigelow, but the condition of the 1970s wooden structure forced them to take action sooner rather than later.

“It was starting to shift,” he says, adding that the south annex was unusable prior to the 2013 harvest, and an annual inspection revealed the elevator had shifted and caused damage to the grain leg.

“You have to spend more money to fix those issues than to build something else,” Christensen says.

The old elevator has since become a bit of a safety hazard — a portion of its highest level had recently fallen because of high winds. Christensen said 48 area fire departments are planning a controlled burn of the remaining structure on June 22.

Once the new grain storage facility is completed, Christensen says, it will have a lifting capacity of 15,000 bushels of grain per hour. That’s the equivalent of a semi load of grain unloading every four minutes, or 15 semis unloading per hour.

At this time, there are no plans to expand employees at the Bigelow facility when construction is completed. But Christensen says the project is being built with an eye to the future. There is space available to the north of the construction site to allow for additional expansion, he added.

“Our hope is with the building of this facility, our business will increase at this location,” Christensen says. “We hope to capture (additional grain) if they can get in and dump it quicker.”

Bigelow Mayor Brad Meester is pleased to see new construction taking place in the community.

“We’re really excited about it from the city’s perspective,” Meester says. “Even from the county’s and township’s perspective, it will be great. Farmers will all be excited for the opportunity.”

UFC is a farmer-owned company with locations in George, Ashton and Allendorf in northwest Iowa, and Bigelow and Rushmore in southwest Minnesota.

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