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Too close? North Dakota Soybean Processors make their pitch on crushing plant location

The soybean 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. Together, they own North Dakota Soybean Processors, which is holding informational sessions on April 12-13.

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 North Dakota Soybean Processors on Tuesday, April, 12, made their pitch to the community of Casselton for a soybean crush plant and tried to allay fears that it would hurt the quality of life in the town.

Some Casselton residents say the plant is too close to residential areas. A group called Casselton Citizens for Responsible Growth has formed with concerns about truck traffic, odor and noise and light pollution.

The soybean plant 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. Together, they own North Dakota Soybean Processors.

In a presentation, answering some questions submitted ahead of time, proponents of the plant addressed these issues Tuesday:

Location: The North Dakota Soybean Processors say they did a statewide study and found the site on the west edge of Casselton is the only one to provide the rail access it needs with service from both BNSF and Red River Valley and Western Railroad.

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When asked why there couldn't be a railspur farther west, an audience member was told that could not be done to accommodate both railroads.

Scott White said having access to both railroads is "critical to the success of this facility."

Odor: Eric Kresin of CGB said unlike some other ag processing plants, a soybean crush plant involves no fermentation, steeping or roasting that makes some plants smelly. He said odor is not an issue in other communities with similar plants, such as Brewster, Minnesota, with some of the those plants being as close or closer to residential areas.

Casselton Soy Site.png
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

Truck traffic: Vernon Swing, a traffic engineer hired as a consultant, said there will be very little truck traffic related to the plant rolling through Casselton. What is now a minimum maintenance road will be developed into a two-lane road for the entrance to the plant. The plant site will be able to accommodate more than 140 trucks to address concerns about trucks backing up onto public roads.
Bill Hejl, a retired farmer who serves on the Casselton Job Development Authority, said in an interview that he hoped that traffic may improve in Casselton by encouraging other trucks to use a similar route that trucks to the soybean plant would use. He said traffic backs up while waiting for trains, sometimes blocking the fire department more than a block away from the tracks.

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Bill Hejl, a retired Casselton, North Dakota, farmer, said he does not think a soybean crush plant in Casselton will make traffic worse and it might even improve in the town's downtown. He talked with others in attendance at an information session at City Hall on Tuesday, April 12, 2022.
Jeff Beach / Agweek

Noise: Plans include double-lined walls for the processing facility and rows of pine trees to help reduce noise.

Fire protection: After questions about whether Casselton would need to add a large, expensive ladder truck to its fire department, Fire Chief John Hejl said that wouldn't be necessary. He said industrial sites like this one and Tharaldson Ethanol just to the west have fire safety systems like sprinklers and foam in storage that would help firefighters.

Casselton's planning and zoning commission is expected to take up the zoning permit needed by the plant in the city's extraterritorial property in late April, with the City Council then making the final decision.

In a written statement, the Casselton Citizens for Responsible Growth said the plant will only benefit a minority of people in the community.

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"NDSP is not a locally owned company or co-op," the statement said. It said the company will reap large profits "while we run the risks of any pollution or noise."

North Dakota Soybean Processors 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 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 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.
Kresin said fears about the unknown nature of a soybean plant are understandable.

Bill Hejl said he had never seen a soybean crush plant in operation until he had a chance to tour the site at Brewster.

"I was fairly impressed with how there really wasn't any odor, it wasn't loud and it wasn't causing a lot of truck traffic in town," Hejl said.

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