Grant funds next phase for co-op
SIKESTON - Southeast Missouri farmers could earn more from their crops if a farmers' cooperative is successful in developing a local processing mill for soybeans and sunflowers.
The USDA's Rural Business-Cooperative Service recently presented $180,000 to Adopt-A-Farm Family Inc. in Sikeston to provide technical assistance to develop a value-added cooperative which will find new uses for farm products.
"These funds are good for Sikeston farmers," said Sen. Christopher Bond in announcing the grant. As a member of Senate Appropriations Committee that funds the USDA's Rural Development program, Bond was instrumental in directing the money to Southeast Missouri.
"I will continue to work with Missouri farmers to find new ways to utilize farm products and this grant is a good start.," he added.
With the presentation of the check by Eighth District Rep. Jo Ann Emerson during her annual farm tour, work began immediately on incorporating and electing a board of directors who will direct the efforts of developing the processing plant.
Peter Myers and his wife, Mary, were all smiles as they accepted the funds which will take the proposal from an idea developed by Rural Restoration/Adopt-A-Farmer to reality.
"It is plain to see that this will fulfill part of Rural Restoration/Adopt's mission of fighting to keep farm and ranch families on the land," said Myers. "The fifty cents per bushel added to the price of our marginally-priced oilseed crops as they leave the farm gate may make the difference between profit and loss for individual farmers."
But there is still lots of work to be done before that money will be a reality for farmers, said Ray Fowler. Fowler coordinated the feasibility study and is working with advisors to bring the plant to the Bootheel.
"We've got a lot of interest," said Fowler, who estimated he and the Adopt office receive two, three or more calls daily about the proposal.
Already they know what type of mill they will bring to the area. The mill will use Insta-Pro's proprietary expressing process. According to Fowler this soybean milling process has several benefits including being environmentally friendly and more cost efficient than mills previously in Southeast Missouri.
"No chemicals are used as the meal is extruded and expelled and there are no additives needed. The soybean meal can go straight to the poultry or livestock without having to add anything to it," said Fowler.
He explained the meal will be high in protein and low in fat content which is better for the animals and eventually better for the consumers, who eats the meat from the meal-fed cows or chickens. Also because there is no need for additives, it will provide cost-savings to those buying the meal for animals.
Grinning, he admitted he has even tasted meal processed by such a plant. "The meal has a sweet taste to it, the animals like it."
The oil expressed through the process is just like the refined oils found on the shelves at local groceries. "It will be sold as a competition to other oils; 83 percent of all oils bought by the housewife is soybean oil we are going to add to the market," he said.
However, Fowler continued, he believes this oil will prove attractive because the processing procedures leave it with no odor, a sweet taste and twice the shelf life of normal oil. "Plus its very good for you," he added. "Studies show soy oil will lower your cholesterol and do wonders for your heart."
Also with just slight alterations the plant could process sunflowers or even cotton seed.
Fowler will spend the next few months working to establish markets for the meal and the oil. Then farmers will be given the opportunity to buy stock in the co-op, becoming members.
Money from the sale of the stock will be used to construct the mill. Fowler estimated the mill's construction will require a $4 million investment.
Although he wouldn't give an exact location, Fowler said the co-op will be located in New Madrid County and will be easily accessible by truck.
Plans call for construction to begin by April of next year. The mill, which will employ about 25 people, should be up and running by Oct. 1, 2003.
Fowler said he expects the plant will probably start out processing 250 tons of soybean meal a day, or some three million bushels annually of the 30 million tons of soybeans grown in the area.
Persons wanting more information about the co-op can contact the Rural Restoration office in Sikeston.