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Tharaldson Ethanol plant joins opposition to North Dakota soybean crushing project

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.

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Ryan Thorpe is chief operating officer of Tharaldson Ethanol in Casselton, North Dakota.
Jaryn Homiston / Agweek
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CASSELTON, N.D. — Some Casselton residents have been campaigning against a proposed soybean crushing plant , saying it would be too close to town. Now, the Casselton ethanol plant has joined the opposition, saying it can’t afford to have another ag processing plant right next door.

“If it were 30, 40, 50 miles, I would have no problem with it,” Ryan Thorpe, chief operating officer for Tharaldson Ethanol said in an interview with Agweek, adding that he would even encourage construction if it were farther away.

But he says if the plant proposed by North Dakota Soybean Processors is built so close, it will increase the price he pays for the corn that his plant turns into ethanol, hurting his business.

Thorpe sent a letter to Casselton Mayor Lee Anderson formally stating Tharaldson Ethanol’s stance. He sent the letter just hours before the Casselton Planning and Zoning Committee met Monday, April 25, to take up the issue.

The committee voted 5-4 to change the zoning of the parcel just west of Casselton from agricultural use to industrial.

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The issue of a conditional use permit for the soybean crushing plant will go before the Casselton City Council at its meeting on Monday, May 2.

Thorpe said he has been meeting with representatives from North Dakota Soybean Processors, which is owned jointly by Minnesota Soybean Processors and Louisiana-based CGB Enterprises.

Thorpe said he did propose a solution to the soybean processors — that they pay for doubling his corn storage capacity so the ethanol plant could buy more corn at harvest, when prices are typically lower, and store it for later use.

Thorpe said the cost for doubling his storage capacity would be about $40 million.

North Dakota Soybean Processors has said its project would cost about $400 million and has said the site between Tharaldson Ethanol and the town of Casselton is the only workable site it was able to find in a statewide search for possible locations.

The site has access to both BNSF and Red River Valley and Western rail lines, which it has called “critical” to the plant’s success.

Representatives from North Dakota Soybean Processors could not be reach for comment on Tuesday.

The soybean plant is expected to crush 42.5 million bushels of soybeans in the first year.

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A group called Casselton Citizens for Responsible Growth has formed with concerns about truck traffic, odor and noise and light pollution from the plant.

Mayor Anderson said in an interview that he was surprised that the ethanol plant would oppose the project.

“It hasn’t been an easy process for anybody,” said of the controversial plant.

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Casselton Mayor Lee Anderson, center, sat through a presentation by the North Dakota Soybean Processors at City Hall on Tuesday, April 12.
Jeff Beach / Agweek

He has yet to announce a position on the project but did say the truck traffic and routing is the area that concerns him the most.

He could potentially be a tie-breaking vote when the six-person council takes up the agenda item.

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A map shows the traffic patterns to a proposed site for a soybean processing plant at Casselton, North Dakota. The plant would be to the west end of the site that would also include space for trucks and railcars.
Contributed / North Dakota Soybean Processors

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 without 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. White said 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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