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North Dakota Soybean Processors say Tharaldson Ethanol concerns are misplaced

The 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.

Scott White speaks at a podium in front of a screen
Scott White of North Dakota Soybean Processors talks on Tuesday, April 13, about the traffic impact of a planned soybean processing plant at Casselton, North Dakota.
Jeff Beach / Agweek
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CASSELTON, N.D. — Representatives of the company seeking to build a soybean crushing plant here say that an ethanol plant’s fears of having to pay higher prices for corn are unfounded.

North Dakota Soybean Processors is seeking to build a $400 million plant to crush soybeans on property next door to Tharaldson Ethanol and just west of the town of Casselton.

“I think the facts simply don’t support these comments,” Steve O’Nan, president of North Dakota Soybean Processors, said in an interview on Wednesday, April 27, regarding Tharaldson. “We didn’t see bean acres drop significantly when ethanol plants are built nor do we see corn acres drop significantly when a bean plant is built.”

Ryan Thorpe, chief operating officer of the ethanol plant, notified the city of Casselton of its objections on Monday, April 25, the same day a zoning change recommendation was approved for the proposed soybean crush site.

Thorpe’s letter also noted that because Tharaldson Ethanol owns more than 20% of the land adjacent to the soybean plant site, it will require 75% of Casselton’s City Council to approve the project. With a six-person council, that means there can be only one no vote on Monday, May 2, when the council is set to take up its application for a conditional use permit.

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Tharaldson letter

Since the meeting, Eric Slater, chief operating officer of CGB, said its research counters Thorpe’s contention that a soybean plant next door would mean higher corn prices.

“The price of the commodity itself affects those ratios more than the basis demand,” Slater said of corn and soybean acres.

O’Nan noted that farmers will still need to rotate corn and soybeans, and having both plants is ideal for farmers in the region.

“It gives them kind of the best of both worlds,” O’Nan said.

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

Louisiana-based CGB, which is involved in soybean plants in multiple states, is partnering with Minnesota Soybean Processors to form North Dakota Soybean Processors. The soybean plant is expected to crush 42.5 million bushels of soybeans in the first year and create 50 to 60 jobs in Casselton.

Thorpe said one possible compromise would be for NDSP to build more storage for the ethanol plant to help it buy more corn when prices are most favorable, but Slater said that idea is not currently on the table.

The plant has gotten pushback from Casselton residents who say the location just west of town is too close to some neighborhoods. The Casselton Citizens for Responsible Growth are worried about noise, truck traffic, light pollution and other possible issues related to the plant.

Sam Wagner of the citizens group said the Tharaldson objection “definitely changes the equation significantly.”

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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

He described the divisive issue as “heartbreaking” because he knows people on both sides are trying to do what is best for Casselton, just with differing opinions on what that is.

Slater said with a favorable vote and some other pending permits at the state level, the company could break ground in late June or July.

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 .

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

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