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Evansville crush plant awaits legislative action

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GINA R. HEINE
October 23, 2007
— Momentum is building for a soybean crush plant in Evansville after legislative leaders included a $4 million grant for the facility in the state budget.

The earmark has to survive votes by the Senate and Assembly today, as well as Gov. Jim Doyle’s veto pen, but one representative who pushed for the item said that shouldn’t be an issue.


“My understanding is it has bipartisan support on both sides of the Legislature, and Gov. Doyle supports it, as well,” said Rep. Brett Davis, R-Oregon.


The grant would help bring the first soybean crushing plant to the state. Wisconsin is the only state among the top 13 soybean producers without one.


The crush plant would add at least 40 jobs to the area and be a boon to farmers across the state, who now have to transport soybeans out of state for processing, officials say.


Landmark Services Cooperative committed last month to match up to the $4 million state grant to use as seed money for engineering and final studies of the project.


Landmark is studying the prospect of locating a crush plant next to a biodiesel plant under construction on Evansville’s east side, Landmark Chief Executive Officer Larry Swalheim said.


“It means a lot to the state of Wisconsin, a lot to soybean farmers, and certainly a lot to the future of our cooperative,” he said of the state grant. “It’s a big step forward toward getting a crush plant in the state.”


Landmark could also receive up to $2 million in tax incremental financing from the city of Evansville. The city approved about $2 million for North Prairie Production’s biodiesel plant in TIF District No. 7 with the understanding that the city could develop a second phase for the crush plant, Mayor Sandy Decker said.


If the $4 million state grant receives final approval, Landmark would have to apply and be approved to receive it.


“Then that leads us to another direction to start moving forward with partners and an equity drive,” Swalheim said.


Landmark’s recent efforts have been talking with Davis, Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, and others to ensure the grant is included in the budget. After approval, Landmark will develop a timeline and decide what kind of equity drive to pursue: major partners or an open equity drive, Swalheim said.


The co-op’s studies are based on a plant that would process 80,000 bushels of soybeans a day. A plant that size would cost $80 million to $85 million, Swalheim said.


“The city of Evansville leaders have welcomed with open arms businesses that are looking to do renewable energy related to biofuels,” Davis said. “I think that future generations are going to see the benefits. All you had to do was walk around at the Soybean Festival this past weekend.”


Saturday’s festival brought out hundreds of people to learn more about soybeans. It was the city’s first festival to honor area farmers and the city’s history.


Jeff Pieterick, vice president of North Prairie, said the support for the biofuel industry in the city is amazing.


“Evansville just defines community,” he said. “And the way they come together to celebrate, in this case their heritage and all, is just astounding. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen anywhere else.”



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