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New ag center in South Dakota begins operations

KENNEBEC, S.D. --A new grain facility is nearly fully operational in Kennebec, about one year after construction crews broke ground. Wheat Growers, a company based out of Aberdeen in northern South Dakota, is building a new facility just outside ...

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John Kroll, construction manager with Wheat Growers, walks on Monday inside the new elevators that have been built at the Kennebec, S.D., facility. Wheat Growers plans to have the new facilities in full operation by July. (Matt Gade/Forum News Service)

KENNEBEC, S.D. -A new grain facility is nearly fully operational in Kennebec, about one year after construction crews broke ground.

Wheat Growers, a company based out of Aberdeen in northern South Dakota, is building a new facility just outside Kennebec in Lyman County. The facility is capable of storing four times as much grain as the current facility inside the town.

"The benefits are going to be, overall, really good for the producers around here," said Wheat Growers Construction Manager John Kroll.

Kroll said the project had a few hiccups with some damage caused by wind storms last summer, but everything is on schedule. Farmers started dumping grain into the storage bins on Monday.

The service center, probe office and scales are all operational, Kroll said. He said the only things that aren't functional yet are the grain elevator and the dryer. Wheat Growers originally planned on completing the project by July, but Kroll said it might be completed ahead of schedule.

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Kroll said the $50 million facility will lead to faster dumping capacity and more storage, and prices should increase, as well, thanks to a rail service that is nearing completion.

The primary contractor for the project was SMA, based out of Monticello, Minn. The agronomy center was constructed by Greystone Construction from Shakopee, Minn., and Reliance-based Choal Construction built the probe office.

Before, Wheat Growers had to use trucks to transport grain from the Kennebec facility to another town with a shuttle loader. Once the train is able to stop in Kennebec, Kroll said that expense will be cut, and Wheat Growers will be able to offer more competitive prices to producers.

"Mainly, this is going to help the producers even more, because more competition around always breeds higher prices," Kroll said.

A local group called Rails to the Future fundraised and gained grants from the state and federal government to improve a line that runs from Mitchell to Presho so it will be able to withstand higher weight requirements. The line will be run by Dakota Southern.

The stretch of line between Mitchell and Chamberlain has been completed. The section between Chamberlain and Presho is still incomplete, and Kennebec is located in the area.

"We're going to be the biggest facility on the line past the Kimball facility now," Kroll said, "so the outreach is going to be anywhere from a 50- to 100-mile radius."

The facility will be able to dump 60,000 bushels an hour into three dump pits. The facility in town can dump about 35,000 bushels an hour, Kroll said.

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Additionally, the grain elevator will be able to load out 80,000 bushels an hour, Kroll said, which will allow Wheat Growers to meet a 10-hour time limit to load a train imposed by the rail line.

The facility also contains an agronomy center, which can hold 150,000 gallons of liquid fertilizer and 13,750 tons of dry fertilizer. Wheat Growers' next-closest agronomy facility is in Chamberlain, but Kroll said one of the four bins is larger than the entire shed in Chamberlain.

The agronomy center is capable of mixing fertilizers on site, which Kroll said is popular among farmers.

"A lot of farmers use blended product to some extent, whatever that mix is," Kroll said.

Kroll said up to 30 people could be hired to run the facility.

According to Kroll, the facility was difficult to design because there had been no rail service coming through before, so it was difficult to know how much storage would be needed-especially since some farmers are likely to keep some grain on their respective farms.

"We felt this was just about right based on what we've been doing in town, being able to fill that up every year," Kroll said.

However, Kroll said the space was designed to allow for expansion as needed. There is a chance a center pile will be added, and there is room around the facility to increase storage of both fertilizer and grain.

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As expansive as the new facility is, the location manager for the Kennebec Wheat Growers facility, Todd Longville, said nearby facilities will not be forgotten.

"We will continue to use (the old) facility, but just not as much as we have in the past," Longville said.

Similarly, Longville said the facility in Reliance, 15 miles away, will continue to be used primarily for storage.

That's not to say nearby towns will be unaffected. Longville said the fertilizer plant will be an asset even in towns like Chamberlain, where a smaller fertilizer facility already exists. The vast quantities that can be housed in nearby Kennebec can be transported to ensure Chamberlain's storage is always full.

Additionally, grain from Kennebec sometimes had to be transported to towns like Highmore and Wolsey, Longville said, because the Kennebec facility couldn't handle the capacity. That sometimes caused lines in Highmore and Wolsey to get backed up, which won't happen anymore.

Longville said it will be a little more work to run the new facility, but everyone at Wheat Growers is excited about the project.

"At the end of the day, I think it's going to be a benefit for everyone," Longville said. "For the whole south-central South Dakota, I think it's huge."

Related Topics: SOUTH DAKOTA
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