Co-op looking to build fertilizer and seed plant

Farm Forum

COLTON (AP) – A farmer’s co-op is looking to consolidate two older facilities into a multimillion dollar fertilizer and seed plant in eastern South Dakota.

Eastern Farmers Cooperative wants to close the seed and fertilizer aspects of its older facilities at Baltic and Crooks and consolidate them in a proposed structure more than two miles north of Colton.

Tony VanOverschelde, Eastern’s agronomy manager, said the 10 employees at the older sites could move to the new location, and the plant would probably have to hire some more people.

”You’re closing down small facilities that aren’t on the rail and don’t access the rail,” VanOverschelde told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. ”Then you’re bringing in bigger, new facilities that are up to date with all the new regulations and have access to the shuttle trains, the 85-car trains, to bring fertilizer in and to keep up with the modern farmer.”

Doug Hanson, who owns land just north of the proposed building site, opposes the plant. Hanson and his lawyer, Rick Ramstad of Sioux Falls, voiced their opposition during a recent Minnehaha County Planning and Zoning Commission.

Hanson is worried about increased truck traffic to the new plant, and Ramstad questioned whether it was an appropriate site for the storage of anhydrous ammonia, which is used in fertilizer to help increase yields in crops.

”We provided them with a lot of general information about anhydrous ammonia,” Ramstad said. ”What happens when it releases. How it’s regulated. The fact that site placement is not regulated by the state or federal government. It’s a local issue because of the lack of regulation.”

The planning and zoning commission has granted a conditional-use permit to Eastern for the new plant as long as it meets certain criteria, said Scott Anderson, Minnehaha County’s planning director. Conditions include meeting parking and signage requirements, and Eastern also has to provide security and fencing around the property. It has to provide grading and a drainage site plan to engineers.

Hanson has appealed the approval to the county commission, and the board will hear the appeal at its Feb. 19 meeting.

”The board can overturn the earlier decision and deny the conditional-use request,” Anderson said. ”It could uphold it and approve it as presented. Or it can add or delete conditions.”

VanOverschelde would not release specific details of the new plant, but said it would cost ”several million dollars” to construct and, if approved, would be completed by spring or fall 2014. Colton is about 25 miles northwest of Sioux Falls.