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Published May 20, 2010, 10:25 AM

As Corn Belt moves west, Onida shipping grows too

PIERRE — Corn production is expanding westward across South Dakota in a big way. Consequently, Oahe Grain Corporation plans to expand its railroad siding at Onida, so that the elevator can handle more of the fast-growing harvest.

By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau

PIERRE — Corn production is expanding westward across South Dakota in a big way. Consequently, Oahe Grain Corporation plans to expand its railroad siding at Onida, so that the elevator can handle more of the fast-growing harvest.

The State Railroad Board approved a $2 million loan Wednesday to the Sully County Rail Authority for the project. “This will open a huge avenue (to markets),” Oahe Grain manager Tim Luken said.

The money will be used to add 3,200 feet of siding at Oahe Grain, which is long enough for 120-car trains to load at the elevator. The loan carries a 2 percent rate of interest and is scheduled to be repaid over 10 years through shipping fees.

Luken said Oahe Grain handled three million bushels of corn in the past year, which is far more than the 50,000 bushels that used to run through the elevator. He said Oahe Grain could reach the 10 million to 12 million range with the ability to load longer trains.

State board chairman Todd Yeaton of Highmore said corn production of 100 to 150 bushels per acre will be seen as far west as Philip in not too many years. “The genetics are there right now,” he said.

Much of the corn harvest from central South Dakota gets trucked north to elevators along the BNSF rail line west of Aberdeen.

“I grew up in Edmunds County, where a 30-bushel average was almost unheard of,” state board member Chet Groseclose of Sioux Falls said.

Two years ago, rail service was expanded in the Onida area so that Oahe Grain and CHS Midwest Cooperatives could handle 75-car trains. Currently more than 5,000 train cars are being loaded annually at Onida.

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