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Cargill to close one of three ND malt plants

The Cargill Malting Plant in Spiritwood announced it is closing its doors. This photo shows the plant, its grain storage area and waste water treatment ponds. John M. Steiner / Forum News Service

JAMESTOWN, N.D.—Cargill will be closing its huge malt plant near Jamestown—one of three in North Dakota— this fall.

The plant processes barley into malt for the beer and malt beverage industry

The plant closing will affect approximately 55 employees at Spiritwood, who may apply for other open positions within Cargill, either in North Dakota or elsewhere, said April Nelson, communications specialist with Cargill Corporate Affairs in Minneapolis.

The output at the Spiritwood plant has fallen based on a lack of demand for the locally produced malts, Nelson said. Area barley growers produce six-row crops that are now trailing in demand for two-row crops grown elsewhere, she said.

Two-row or six-row barley refers to the placement of kernels on the seed head. Two-row barley is currently more popular for malting for beer.

"The decision to close a plant is never easy, but reduced demand for six-row crops, a North Dakota climate not conducive to the more in-demand two-row crops and low utilization of the plant made the closure necessary," Nelson said.

Growers were notified that Cargill would not continue its contract growing program prior to the 2018 season to encourage the transition to alternate contracting and growing choices, she said. Cargill Malt will honor existing contracts and supply malt out of Spiritwood until the end of September, she said.

Cargill Malt utilizes steam energy from Spiritwood Station, the coal-fired electric and steam generation plant operated by Great River Energy at Spiritwood, according to Lyndon Anderson, communications lead for Great River Energy.

"We just learned about those plans and we're evaluating how the facility's closure will impact Spiritwood Station," he said.

Cargill Malt is adjacent to the Spiritwood Energy Park Association industrial park. The park currently houses Dakota Spirit AgEnergy, a corn-based ethanol plant. A soybean crushing plant is also currently in the planning and financing stages.

The industrial park and surrounding area were touted as a center for value-added agriculture processing barley, corn and possibly soybeans in the future.

Connie Ova, CEO of Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp., said she was at a loss for words regarding the Cargill Malt closing.

"I am hoping they can place the workers with Cargill or with other local companies," Ova said. "I just wish we had the other plant (soybean crushing) ready to go for them to move over."

The Spiritwood plant started as Ladish Malt in the 1970s and was acquired by Cargill Malt, Nelson said. Cargill Malt currently has malting operations in 10 countries.

"Despite this closure, Cargill remains committed to North Dakota," Nelson said. "We employ approximately 230 North Dakotans at our West Fargo and Wahpeton facilities, and will continue our support and investment in those communities."

Cargill will offer transition benefits, severance for salaried employees, and will work with the union regarding bargaining unit employees, she said.

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