N.D. elevator partners with Kan. company to build shuttle loader

Farm Forum

Privately held grain company Tronson Grain Co. is building a 1-million-bushel shuttle loader in Doyon, N.D., in partnership with Agrex Inc. of Overland Park, Kan.

Rick Tronson, president of Tronson Grain, says builders are installing grain legs and equipment and will be ready to handle grain by Aug. 4, in time for the 2013 small grain harvest. The new elevator is near the Tronson Grain headquarters elevator. The company is owned by Tronson, his wife, Julie, and his cousin, Paul Tronson. The company has been in the family since 1942 and is one of only a few family-owned grain elevator operations in the region.

Tronson declined to say exactly what the arrangement is with Agrex, but emphasized that Tronson Grain will be the majority owner.

Tronson Grain will continue to run its 864,000-bushel facility in Doyon. The new facility will handle corn, soybeans and wheat and will be separate from the original elevator, which will stay in service, but will shift into commodities such as malting barley, edible beans, canola and durum. The company also has a 511,000-bushel facility in Tolna, N.D., as well as a seed plant in Lakota, N.D.

“We’ve just seen corn moving north into our areas,” Tronson says. “The corn and beans and yields have been growing steadily. Farmers around here have been real patient with us, but it looked like a time we had to make a move because we’d kind of outgrown our old elevator. It was do something now or just go backward.”

Vigen Construction of East Grand Forks, Minn., is building the elevator. It is a full concrete structure with two, 20,000-bushel-per-hour truck dumping legs, as well as a load-out at 80,000 bushels, and a circle track that holds a unit train of 120 cars.

Agrex is a full-service agricultural commodity trading company that handles grain, oilseeds, feed ingredients, hay and other food ingredients. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corp., which operates in 75 countries.

About 80 percent of Agrex sales are to international markets such as Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan, Southeast Asia and Mexico.

In 2009, Agrex’s export volume was 7.1 million tons, or about 25 percent of grain exports from the Pacific Northwest. In 2011, it expanded its throughput by 25 percent by expanding its 95,000-metric-ton grain facility to include a wheat cleaning system, a 21,000-ton increase in grain storage and increased vessel loading.

The company has two terminal grain facilities in Nebraska that supply the U.S., Mexican and Pacific Rim markets.

Tronson acknowledged his elevator joins a collection of shuttle-loaders in North Dakota, including Devils Lake, Lakota, Nekoma, Milton, New Rockford, Park River and a new one planned for Langdon.

“Basically, I think we’d maxed our elevators,” he says. “It’s kind of the nature of things. Switching to corn, you need a lot of elevator capacity to move that grain. The yields are getting bigger and I think the corn is here to stay.”