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Soybean crushing plant planned in Spiritwood, N.D.

The site will create about 70 permanent jobs and have the capacity to process up to 150,000 bushels of soybeans per day, or more than 54 million per year.

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SPIRITWOOD, N.D. • A $350 million soybean crushing and refining plant is planned in Spiritwood, N.D., which will have significant benefits to the state’s agriculture industry and economy.

Archer Daniels Midland Co., the Decatur, Ill.-based company that is planning the project, said the plant at the Spiritwood Energy Park Association industrial site will create about 70 permanent jobs and have the capacity to process up to 150,000 bushels of soybeans per day, or more than 54 million per year.

Gov. Doug Burgum, in a meeting with the Grand Forks Herald and Prairie Business in May, called the soybean plant a game-changer for the state. Not only will it add value to agriculture and expand the market for soybeans, he said, but it will support the production of renewable energy.

ADM said the plant will produce soybean meal and vegetable oil for food, feed, industrial and fuel customers, including producers of renewable diesel. Soybean oil from the plant would be shipped to the Marathon Petroleum refinery in Dickinson, N.D., to make renewable diesel.

“This exciting new project allows us to partner with North Dakota farmers to further advance the role of agriculture in addressing climate change through the production of low carbon feedstocks for products such as renewable diesel,” said Greg Morris, president of ADM’s Ag Services & Oilseeds business.

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Burgum said: “It’s an aspirational thing and it’s a challenge, but we’ve heard a lot of positive feedback from the industry,” noting the plant itself will be one of the greenest plants built “because that’s what (ADM’s) investors are looking for too, and so everybody’s moving in the right direction.”

The Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. approved $2.5 million in forgivable loans and grants as a local incentive for the project, according to a previous report by the Jamestown Sun.

The funding includes a $1 million grant at the time ADM signs a lease with the Spiritwood Energy Park Association, $500,000 at the completion of construction if it is within 24 months of the lease agreement and $500,000 upon proof that ADM has 25 people on the payroll at jobs paying more than $20 per hour.

North Dakota, ranked ninth in the country for the production of soybeans, produces more than 190 million bushels of soybeans per year, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. In 2018, Cass County was ranked as the No. 1-producing soybean county in the nation.

Jamestown Mayor Dwaine Heinrich, who comes from a farm background, knows about the important role agriculture plays and what the soybean plant could do for North Dakota.

“As far as locally, certainly this will help to stabilize our economy. I believe there's roughly 70 jobs associated with this. Certainly not all are going to live in Jamestown or Stutsman County, but a good number of them will,” he said. “That means we have more people to help support our local cities, counties and schools through taxes and other activities.

“I like to think that people run in pairs. These jobs are going to be really good jobs, people are going to be willing to move here, if necessary, and hopefully they bring along someone else that would be able to fill another job. It helps bring in families that will put more kids in our schools. And, of course, additional economic activity simply means additional taxes to help support the city, the county and keep taxes as low as possible.”

The closest soybean crushing plant of significance, he said, is in Aberdeen, S.D.

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Soybeans, while perhaps not often discussed as openly as other crops in the state, are an important one for North Dakota, said David Ripplinger, associate professor in the Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics at North Dakota State University.

The process of crushing soybeans, Ripplinger said, is not rocket science but “to do it well and to make money … is not easy at all.” He believes the future Spiritwood plant will be one of the best.

According to ADM, the plant is expected to be completed prior to the 2023 harvest.

“We’ve long been exporting soybeans,” Ripplinger said. “We’ve added acres, but generally we have plateaued while increasing yields. Now it’s an opportunity to have value-added agriculture. It’s something we have always wanted to do and this provides us the opportunity.

“And, with a renewable diesel facility already operating in the state, it’s even better because there’s only a handful of those, and so we get to take immediate advantage of that.”

Matt Gardner, with the Greater North Dakota Chamber, said when value is added to a product, wages also tend to increase.

“When you think of North Dakota in its progression, it has been an agricultural state, an energy-producing state. … If you can add more value to energy products that we’re developing in the state, the better things are going to be,” Gardner said. “On the flip side, the ag products being grown here are driving investment, like a soybean crushing facility.”

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