June 3, 2015 by Douglas Burns
Ralston-based cooperative West Central this morning announced a $27 million expansion of its protein dairy feed operation in eastern Carroll County, a move that will increase production of the product 50 percent.
During a news conference and public rollout at the 3,500-member cooperative’s headquarters near the Greene County/Carroll County line, Milan Kucerak, president and CEO of West Central, said the SoyPlus expansion would create demand for an additional 6 million bushels of soybeans annually and 11 jobs. The company plans to begin hiring immediately.
“We have a real rich history of innovation,” Kucerak said, adding that West Central places a premium on commercializing its research success.
Mark Cullen, West Central executive vice president of animal nutrition, said the Ralston plant is producing at capacity.
Its appetite for soybeans will be roughly what’s growing on 400,000 acres — or the equivalent of all the soybeans harvested in Carroll and Greene counties.
“We are excited about the job creation,” Cullen said.
The investment in Ralston will include: an additional line of mechanical presses, soybean and finished-product storage and load-out access. Production will come online in phases with new production volumes ready as soon as the fall of 2016.
Grant Kimberley, market development director for the Iowa Soybean Association, said the expansion takes advantage of increased domestic and international demand.
China, for example, has 14 million dairy cows, a figure expected to double in the next decade, Kimberley said.
“As the world’s middle class continues to grow, the first thing people add back to their diets is protein,” he said.
One dairy cow brings in $23,000 annually to Iowa’s economy, said Michael Niag, deputy secretary of the Iowa Department of Agriculture.
Kucerak sees major opportunities for the introduction of more dairy operations in the Carroll County and Greene County area. Proximity to grain and access to “free” water are key factors.
West Central employs 280 people in 26 locations.
Several regional development officials and business leaders attended the event in Ralston .
“It’s a very significant agricultural expansion,” said Carroll Area Development Corporation Executive Director Shannon Landauer.
“It’s not just an ag expansion. It’s value-added agriculture.”
Courtesy of Douglas Burns, The Daily Times Herald 6/3/15 and the Jefferson Herald 6/4/15.