As more than 100 guests looked on, Wheat Growers officially broke ground for a state-of-the-art shuttle loader grain handling, fertilizer and agronomy facility in Kennebec, SD. The facility will be located along the soon-to-be rehabilitated line that is part of the state of South Dakota’s expansion of heavy-rail service from Chamberlain to Presho.
Taking part in the groundbreaking program and ceremony were U.S. Senator John Thune, South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture Lucas Lentsch, S.D. Representative Jim Schaefer of Kennebec, Steve Halvorson and Bill Ferguson of Rails to the Future, Wheat Growers Board President Hal Clemensen and Wheat Growers CEO Dale Locken.
Dale Locken praised the efforts of individuals and local, state and federal government officials who worked together on the Rails to the Future project.
“In February we brought the promise of building this facility to the South Dakota Legislature,” Locken said. “The Wheat Growers Board of Directors made a commitment at that time to build a first-class grain shuttle loading facility, fertilizer plant and agronomy service center to service the needs of south central South Dakota farmers if the heavy rail line was built. This new facility will be the result of the collective efforts of so many people we want to thank today.”
Hal Clemensen emphasized the local nature of the cooperative and the role it will play in the community.
“Wheat Growers is a local co-op, a farmer-owned co-op,” Clemensen said. “The business done with our co-op stays in our co-op, as proven by this project. Our board of directors was unanimous in our support of this project from the time Rails to the Future proposed extending heavy-rail service from Chamberlain to Presho. And now, thanks to the hard work of many partners, the 40-mile Chamberlain to Presho railroad line will be rehabilitated, enabling Wheat Growers to proceed with our new Kennebec facility, delivering on our promise to this region and the state.”
South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture Lucas Lentsch says the Wheat Growers facility and Rails to the Future speak about the promising future for agriculture.
“This kind of investment in western South Dakota speaks volumes about our future,” Secretary Lentsch said. “About the technology it’s unlocking, the landowner decisions, the investment that’s going into the future, a willing partner like Wheat Growers, who is willing to step up and be an investor right alongside this community and our local leaders.”
Senator John Thune noted the change in the type of crops being grown in central and western South Dakota today, and the importance of having rail service.
“We’re raising grain out here now, and we have to move it,” Senator Thune said. “And the most efficient way to move agricultural commodities is on the rail. It’s good for the farmer, keeping more dollars in their pockets and it’s so much better for our roads. Having this Wheat Growers facility in central South Dakota is going to be a tremendous asset to this area.”
Dirt work and construction will continue through this fall with the goal of having the agronomy facility ready for business by the winter of 2015/2016 and the grain handling facility completed in time for harvest 2016.