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Work could begin soon on renovating old barley malt plant into new North Dakota soybean crush plant

Archer Daniels Midland closed recently on the purchase of the former Cargill malt plant. And soon, the plant that has stood empty for nearly three years will become a soybean crush plant — something North Dakota ag and government officials have long sought for the state.

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North Dakota is in the top 10 for soybean production in the U.S. A new soybean crush plant planned at the Spiritwood Energy Park Association east of Jamestown, N.D., will put some of those beans to use closer to home. Photo taken June 22, 2021. (Jenny Schlecht / Agweek)

JAMESTOWN, N.D. — Connie Ova expects demolition could begin anytime on the former Cargill malt plant at the Spiritwood Energy Park Association.

Archer Daniels Midland closed recently on the purchase of the plant, she said. And soon, the plant that has stood empty for nearly three years will become a soybean crush plant — something North Dakota ag and government officials have long sought for the state.

Ova, the CEO of the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. and COO of the Spiritwood Energy Park Association, said value-added agriculture has long been seen as a benefit to the region. The development corporation first got into agriculture projects in the 1990s with a Cavendish Farms potato facility. Later developments included the Cargill plant, which shuttered in the fall of 2018, and the Dakota Spirit Ag Energy ethanol plant.

According to statistics from the North Dakota Soybean Council , North Dakota is the No. 5 state for planted and harvested soybean acres and the No. 9 state for produced bushels of soybeans.

"We're not small beans ," Ova quipped.

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But with no crush plants active in the state, those soybeans have had to go elsewhere to find their ultimate markets.

"We knew that there was a major need for a soybean crush facility in the area," Ova said. "In fact, there probably is room for another three or four is what the statistics show. This plant will be able to process 25 to 30% of the total soybean production of North Dakota."

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Some of the bones of the former Cargill malt plant at the Spiritwood Energy Park Association will be remodeled into an Archer Daniels Midland soybean crush plant. Photo taken June 22, 2021. (Jenny Schlecht / Agweek)

After a previous attempt to put a soybean plant at the Spiritwood Energy Park fell through, Ova said state officials put the park on ADM's radar. ADM considered both a "greenfield" project, or one started from scratch, and the Cargill plant. They ultimately decided on the Cargill plant, which Ova said is a win-win for the park.

"Our worst nightmare was that it would continue to sit there not doing anything," she said.

While the facility will need major overhauls to take it from holding and malting barley to holding and crushing soybeans into meal and oil, Ova said there are some valuable pieces of infrastructure there that ADM will be able to use. There already is a rail line, though she said the energy park will work with ADM to put another loop inside an existing rail loop. And there is a steam line from Great River Energy, located right next door to the plant.

"That was another plus, not having to bring that steam across the road," Ova said.

Getting a crush plant to the Jamestown area has been in the works at least five years, and Ova said there have been plenty of lessons learned around doing due diligence and research and getting things to completion. In the end, she said it was well worth it for the ag industry and for the community.

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During demolition and construction, 200 to 600 workers will be on-site at the plant, she said. Once the facility is up and running in the fall of 2023, ADM expects to offer "75 good, high-quality, diversified jobs," she said.

"It will provide other, better jobs for individuals in the area, for people that are looking to relocate to North Dakota, to come back to North Dakota or are who are looking for good jobs with good benefits," Ova said.

The ADM plant isn't the only ag project expected to come to fruition at the park. Canadian company Houweling's Tomatoes has signed a letter of intent to build a 30-acre, all-under-glass greenhouse south of Dakota Spirit Ag Energy. The company intends to grow tomatoes year-round at the facility.

Both ADM and Houweling's were attracted to the location, in part, by tax incentives and by state programs for value-added agriculture, Ova said. She said the energy park, located close to Interstate 94, has the essential infrastructure for plants, including roads, water, utilities and internet.

"We totally understand the need to diversify the economy and, with that, value-added ag processing is huge to this area," she said.

Jenny Schlecht is the director of ag content for Agweek and serves as editor of Agweek, Sugarbeet Grower and BeanGrower. She lives on a farm and ranch near Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. You can reach her at jschlecht@agweek.com or 701-595-0425.
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