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Friday, April 6th, 2007

Soybean extrusion plant on track to open

Facility would initially employ about six people

By Nancy Allen
A $3 million soybean extrusion plant that produces soybean oil and soybean meal could be in production as early as this summer, if construction on the facility in Rockford stays on track.
Scott Boulis, facility manager at Mercer Landmark, spoke about the project during Thursday's monthly agriculture breakfast meeting in Celina.
Boulis said the plant would initially include an extrusion facility that extracts oil from soybeans and produces meal for livestock feed.
At some point in the future, Mercer Landmark plans to add an on-site refinery to the complex that turns the extracted soybean oil into trans fat-free cooking oil. There is no set time frame for the refinery to be built, he said.
The fact that the soybean oil Mercer Landmark will be making is trans fat-free gives the small company a leg up, Boulis said, due to a public demand for healthier foods.
The oil produced by soybean giants Cargill in Sidney and Bunge in Decatur, Ind., contains trans fats, he said.
  In the first year, the Rockford plant will process about 1.2 million bushels of beans, Boulis said. Of that amount, 900,000 bushels, or 18,000 acres, will be Low-Lin beans, which produces a cooking oil that is trans fat-free. The plant also would produce 30,000 tons of soybean meal and about 8.5 million pounds of unrefined soybean oil.
The meal would be sold in bulk and trucked to various feed mils and dairy farms in the area and the crude soybean oil would be sent to refineries to be turned into cooking oil.
In the second year, Mercer Landmark hopes to process 30,000 acres, or 1.5 million bushels, of Low-Lin beans.
Mercer Landmark is contracting with area farmers to provide the soybeans for the new 16,000-square-foot plant.
Mercer County farmers produce roughly 100,000 acres of soybeans annually.
"Farmers will earn a 60 to 70 percent premium on the contracts for their beans," Boulis said.
That means farmers would be paid 60 to 70 cents more per bushel on top of the current market value for their soybeans.
Boulis said the plant would employ about six people when it first starts up working two shifts, five days a week.
"In the future we would have the capability to run three shifts, seven days a week, but we would have to build our market first," Boulis said.
Mercer County Commissioners last October approved a $250,000 loan to Mercer Landmark from the county's revolving loan fund for the project. Mercer Landmark also has secured a $1.12 million Small Business Administration 504 loan to pay for the $3 million soybean extrusion plant.
Ground was broken for the facility in November, at the existing Rockford Landmark elevator site on Main Street, Boulis said. In preparation for the construction, Landmark officials have torn down a few old grain silos at the site and are refurbishing the old elevator.
The old elevator will be used to receive the soybeans for processing into soybean oil and meal and also will be used to store the meal and load it out.
The next monthly agriculture breakfast is May 3 at the Mercer County Central Services Building in Celina, where Mercer County Fair Manager Scott Rifle will talk about how he is promoting year-round use of the fairgrounds.
Robert Boggs, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources will speak at the June 7 agriculture breakfast meeting, reported Mercer County Farm Service Agency Executive Director Chris Gibbs.
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