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Minnesota Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, right, authored a trio of bills that would offer financial and tax incentives to Minnesota shrimp farmers. Michael Zeibell, president of Marshall-based trū Shrimp, left, said the incentives would help establish a new industry in Minnesota. Maureen McMullen / Forum News Service

Shrimpin' ain't easy: Proposed seafood facilities seek state aid to open in Minnesota

ST. PAUL — A southwestern Minnesota company is fishing for state aid to open two indoor shrimp farms.

Michael Ziebell, president of trū Shrimp, said the operations his company proposes offer an opportunity for economic gain throughout the state. The farms would use at least 80 percent Minnesota-grown food for the shrimp.

He was one of two people to testify in favor of a House bill that would provide Minnesota shrimp farmers up to $5 million in annual incentives from the state.

"We will not compete with any other industry," he said, adding that the proposal would build "on the commodities and adds value to commodities we already produce."

There is at least one other shrimp farm in the state.

A House agriculture policy committee voted Wednesday, March 15, in favor of the bill, which would allow Minnesota companies that produce more than 25,000 pounds of shrimp per quarter to collect up to 69 cents per pound for up to five years up to 2 million pounds per quarter.

The payments would stop in 2035.

The agriculture finance committee is scheduled to review the bill Thursday.

The trū Shrimp company is a subsidiary brand of Ralco, a Marshall, Minn.-based company that distributes livestock feed and animal products.

The company has proposed indoor shrimp farms in Marshall and Luverne, and currently operates a pilot shrimp research lab in Balaton, Minn.

Ralco President Brian Knochenmus said the facility would "truly rival any shrimp research facility in the world."

"We have effectively proven, scientifically, that this technology does work," Knochenmus said. "We can grow shrimp in Minnesota, actually to compete very, very well with shrimp production on the world's scale."

Ziebell said one new facility could produce as many as 7 million pounds of shrimp annually, more than half the 11.3 million pounds currently produced each year in the United States.

The new facilities are expected to hire as many as 330 people. Line workers would earn about $15 an hour with health and retirement benefits, Ziebell said, adding that the company could employ thousands of people in the future.

A Senate bill similar to the one by Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, is being considered by an agriculture finance committee.

The House agriculture policy committee also approved two other bills Swedzinski authored relating to shrimp farming.

One would modify agricultural property tax classification to include shrimp farming in the same classification as fish farming. A House committee on property tax will hear the bill next.

His third bill would allow tax exemptions on certain building materials used in constructing shrimp farming equipment and facilities.

Swedzinski said similar exemptions have been granted for companies in the Iron Range.

The exemption, he said, would help "addresses uniqueness of beginning of this endeavor we'd take on in the state of Minnesota."