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Casselton council approves North Dakota Soybean Processors crush plant

The $400 million North Dakota Soybean Processors plant at Casselton, North Dakota, is expected to crush 42.5 million bushels of soybeans in the first year and is a joint venture between the Minnesota Soybean Processors and Louisiana-based CGB Enterprises.

Crowd in a meeting room
Residents of Casselton, North Dakota, and others interested in the vote on a proposed soybean crushing plant, including farmers from neighboring counties, filled a meeting room at Casselton City Hall on Monday, May 2, 2022. People opposed to the plant were encouraged to wear red.
Jeff Beach / Agweek
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CASSELTON, N.D. — The Casselton City Council has approved a soybean crushing plant in the face of opposition from some disapproving neighbors that include the ethanol plant in the community.

Construction on the $400 million project by the North Dakota Soybean Processors will likely start this summer.

The soybean crushing plant issue has divided Casselton, with some residents saying the plant just west of town is too close to residential neighborhoods. The Casselton Citizens for Responsible Growth are worried about noise, truck traffic, light pollution and other possible issues related to the plant.

But Joan Carvell was one council member who visited a soybean crush plant in Brewster, Minnesota. "I did not see the items people are talking about," Carvell said before the council approved a conditional use permit for the plant on Monday, May 2.

The plant at Brewster is owned by Minnesota Soybean Processors, which is partnering with Louisiana-based CGB to form North Dakota Soybean Processors.

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During public presentations , the North Dakota Soybean Processors tried to allay the fears of residents laying out their traffic plans and pledging to be a good neighbor.

"We are the type of company you want in your town," Steve O'Nan, president of North Dakota Soybean Processors told the council before a packed audience.

The $400 million soybean plant is expected to crush 42.5 million bushels of soybeans in the first year and create 50 to 60 jobs in Casselton.

Farmers have been in support of the Casselton project, with NDSP saying studies have shown there may be a 5- to 10-cent per bushel basis differential for farmers delivering to the plant.

But in a surprise to some of those farmers, the Tharaldson Ethanol plant at Casselton filed an objection to the plant with the city. Because Tharaldson owns 20% of the land adjacent to the soybean plant site, that objection triggered the need for 75% of Casselton’s City Council to approve the project. With a six-person council, that meant there could be only one no vote on the conditional use permit.

Charlie Francis cast the only vote against the project.

Charlie Francis
Charlie Francis, left, would be the only vote against the soybean plant on the six person Casselton City Council on Monday, May 2. At right is council member Kent Buss.
Jeff Beach / Agweek

Ryan Thorpe, chief operating officer of the ethanol plant, said the soybean plant would drive up the price of the corn he buys to produce ethanol, hurting his business.

Thorpe did not speak at Monday's meeting.

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The soybean processing plant will remain outside the city limits of Casselton, about 20 miles west of Fargo.

Casselton Soy Site.png
A map shows the truck traffic patterns to a proposed site for a soybean processing plant at Casselton, North Dakota. The Tharaldson Ethanol plant is just to the west of the soybean plant site.
Contributed / North Dakota Soybean Processors

But as part of an agreement given preliminary approval by the council, North Dakota Soybean Processors will give the city $100,000 annually for 15 years in exchange for not being annexed.

A number of residents opposed to the plant, many of them dressed in red, spoke at the meeting to restate that the plant is too close to residential areas.

Asked resident Kirk Johnson, "Do we want to live in an industrial park?"

A "Too Close" sign in a Casselton, North Dakota, front yard.
"Too Close" signs dot some yards in Casselton, North Dakota, showing opposition to a proposed soybean processing plant.
Jeff Beach / Agweek

Representatives of the soybean plant have been firm in saying that another site would not be feasible, with the site between the ethanol plant and the town providing critical access to two railroads.

North Dakota Soybean Processors has noted that Cass County is one of the top soybean producing counties in the nation and North Dakota is the only top 10 soybean producing state that doesn't have a dedicated crush plant.

Another soybean plant is under construction in Spiritwood, North Dakota . ADM is developing that plant at a site near where North Dakota Soybean Processors at one time planned to build .

Reach Jeff Beach at jbeach@agweek.com or call 701-451-5651 (work) or 859-420-1177.
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