Dairy packs economic punch
PENNOCK, Minn. -- Efforts to get a large dairy in Kandiyohi County began more than a decade ago in response to a sharp decline in dairy processing facilities that threatened future growth for existing dairy farms, said Kim Larson, who was involve...
PENNOCK, Minn. - Efforts to get a large dairy in Kandiyohi County began more than a decade ago in response to a sharp decline in dairy processing facilities that threatened future growth for existing dairy farms, said Kim Larson, who was involved with the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission’s ag committee at the time and is now an investor in Meadow Star Dairy. From about 1990 to 2002 Larson said Minnesota lost 21 dairy processing plants. During that same time the number of dairy cows in Kandiyohi County dropped from 12,000 to about 5,000.
Larson went to California to try to woo dairy farmers to move here and even courted Danish dairy farmers without any luck. “And then Riverview called,” he said, referring to the limited liability partnership based in Morris that has dairy, beef and crop facilities in five states.
Meadow Star Dairy was initially permitted in 2008 but soon after the dairy market tanked, grain prices soared and the project was put on hold until the fall of 2014 when plans were launched for construction of the massive free-stall barns and milking parlor.
“It feels great,” said Larson, of the 8,500-head dairy operation.
Every day Meadow Star produces 500,000 pounds of milk.
It’s enough to fill eight semi tankers that are trucked to the First District Association processing facility in Litchfield, which processes more than 1.5 billion pounds of milk a year.
The high butterfat milk produced by Meadow Star’s brown- and tan-colored Jersey cows is primarily used to make cheese, said Lyle Grimm, project manager at Riverview
The total cost for Meadow Star Dairy was about $60 million.
The annual county tax assessments are about $40,000 and St. John’s Township, where Meadow Star is located, was expected to see an 8.3 percent increase in their total tax base, according to information from the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission.
Additional taxes will be generated from the estimated $2.6 million payroll and approximate $3.5 million in local values of farm commodities like hay and silage, according to the EDC.
With 47 employees, including about 36 that live in housing on site, and a host of area farmers that it purchases feed from and sells liquid fertilizer to, Meadow Star Dairy has a wide impact on the local economy.
“We appreciate the investment that’s been made there,”said Aaron Backman, executive director of the EDC.