Corn processing plant nearing reality

North Dakota State Roundup

Published July 1, 1994  | July 1994 issue

The Northern Corn Processors Cooperative plans to build a $245 million corn processing plant that will become the nation's fourth largest producer of high fructose syrup. The plant will also produce corn starch and related corn byproducts.

It took only two weeks for the cooperative to meet its goal of $50 million in commitments for shares from more than 2,200 Red River Valley grower-investors. Investors put 10 cents down for every $3.45 share, with each share representing an obligation to deliver one bushel of corn to the plant. "We're addressing a pent-up demand," says Patrick Benedict, a Sabin, Minn., farmer and cooperative chairman.

The plant, which will process about 25.2 million bushels of corn annually, is expected to create a greater demand for corn and lead to better prices for growers, Benedict says. "We've been in a black hole regarding the price of corn."

The wet corn milling processing plant is expected to value-add approximately $1 per bushel to the sales price of each bushel of corn. "Farmers are plenty happy to produce their own product instead of giving someone else the money," says Michelle Larson at the cooperative's Fargo office.

American Crystal Sugar Co. of Moorhead, Minn., and Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative, Wahpeton, N.D., both sugar beet cooperatives, will join the cooperative in building the plant and also provide marketing assistance. The partnership is a perfect fit because many sugar customers also purchase corn sweetener, Benedict says. A long-term mortgage financing loan from the St. Paul Bank for Cooperatives will provide the remaining needed construction capital.

While the plant's location will not be announced until August, several communities in North Dakota, Minnesota and South Dakota long for the 150 plant jobs and conceivably another 150-plus ancillary jobs. And Benedict doesn't discount the possibility that once the product is available, the plant may lure other food processing and manufacturing operations to the area.

Construction is expected to begin in May 1995 with operations beginning in August 1996.

Kathy Cobb