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Work begins on Great Falls ag plant

GREAT FALLS, Mont. — Montana Specialty Mills has begun construction of a new $20 million processing center in Great Falls, Mont., that will help the company expand into the non-GMO and organic vegetable oil and protein meal markets.

"The plant in Great Falls will provide a nearby market for regional producers interested in oilseeds in their crop rotation," says Steve Chambers, president and CEO of Montana Specialty Mills.

The company makes products from canola, sunflower, safflower, flax, wheat, barley, oats and mustard, relying heavily on crops grown in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Canada. The three states are national leaders in those crops, which are popular with Canadian farmers, as well.

The new plant, on 20 acres in the AgriTech Park in Great Falls, is expected to be finished by the fall of 2018.

It will feature state-of-the-art grain processing equipment dedicated to non-GMO products and organic oilseeds. It will consist of a 22,500-square-foot building, 70,000 bushels of seed storage, 1,000 tons of meal storage and 425,000 gallons of oil storage, crushing 200 tons per day initially and refining 60 tons of oil daily.

Montana Specialty Mills now has 15 full-time employees and expects to add 10 more at its new location.

The company had operated a smaller plant in Great Falls for 70 years. That plant was demolished in November to make way for a new development. The MSM mustard processing plant in Conrad, Mont., continues to operate.

Montana Specialty Mills dates to 1946, when it began operations as the Montana Vegetable Oil and Feed Co. Today, the company emphasizes its expertise in oilseed crushing and mustard processing, providing ag commodities for processed end products.

This past winter, Montana Specialty Mills and Columbia Grain International launched a joint venture designed to enhance both companies' presence in the growing organic food and organic animal feed market. The effort sought to capitalize on Montana Specialty Mills' skill in oilseed crushing and mustard processing and Columbia Grain's capabilities in origination and storage.

"The partnership with Columbia Grain strengthens the origination of oilseeds and offers customers a farm-to-fork supply chain," Chambers says.

By all accounts, demand for organic food is growing rapidly.

The Organic Trade Association estimates that organic food sales in the U.S. reached $40 billion in 2016 and accounted for about 5 percent of total food sales nationwide.

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