By STAN MADDUX
MOUNT VERNON, Ind. — A major expansion of a soybean processing plant couldn’t come at a better time, perhaps, for its Indiana and Illinois suppliers, with soybeans prices remaining low.
Consolidated Grain and Barge Co. (CGB) has completed a $32 million investment at its soybean processing facility at the Port of Indiana along the Ohio River in Mount Vernon, Ind. Bill McBee, a commodity trader at CGB, said up to 50,000 truckloads of soybeans annually can now be processed.
About 20,000 truckloads a year could be accepted when the plant – located about 20 miles west of Evansville – first opened in 1997.
Increased capacity means higher demand for soybeans near the plant and prices, forecast by USDA to dip further, being more stable closer the facility, said Mark Albertson, director of Strategic Market Development for the Illinois Soybean Assoc.
“It will help keep prices a little higher than what they would have been,” he added.
CGB acquires its soybeans from growers in southeast Illinois and southwestern Indiana. McBee said more capacity also helps lower the plant’s cost per bushel of processing, while providing more product to sell.
Capacity was increased by replacing old equipment with two extractors brought in from overseas and assembled at the plant, he said. CGB processes soybeans into meal, oil and pellets for markets primarily in the southeastern portion of the United States, along with Europe and Asia.
According to company officials, just one bushel of soybeans can produce 11 pounds of oil commonly used for cooking, biodiesel and other industrial applications. The same amount can also make nearly 49 pounds of soy meal and hulls for feed mills, poultry manufacturers and hog farmers.
“This investment means we will remain competitive in this global economy,” said Kevin Adams, CGB president and CEO.
CGB has more than 100 employees. Albertson said the expansion could be a sign of better times on the horizon for an industry struggling the past few years from low grain prices and competition from overseas.
Albertson said the expansion, coupled with new soybean processing facilities going up throughout the Midwest the past 18 months, is a positive sign following a period where some plants closed due to competition from overseas. “This is definitely a move in the right direction.”
Phil Wilzbacher, director of the Mount Vernon port, said the investment represents a strong commitment by CGB to smart growth and soybean processing in the area. Illinois was first and Indiana fourth in soybean production in 2017, according to the USDA.
According to officials, business activities at the Mount Vernon port support more than 7,000 jobs and generate over $1 billion in annual economic impact for Indiana. Close to $350 million of the economic impact consists of wages.
Soybeans, corn, wheat, ethanol, dried distillers grains and fertilizer are among the primary cargo moving through the port, which has seen record shipments the past four years, officials added.