Perdue AgriBusiness on September 25 opened Pennsylvania’s first large-scale, commercial soybean processing plant in Bainbridge.
The opening creates both an in-state market for soybeans and source of soymeal for livestock and dairy farms while tapping into existing waste-to-energy to bring a net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over current operations.
One of the most highly efficient, technologically advanced, environmentally sound soybean processing plants in the country, it promises to change positively the economic equation for Pennsylvania farmers who have been paying more to send their soybeans out of state for processing and bring back meal for animal feed.
“This plant builds on Perdue’s investment in Pennsylvania and our commitment to Pennsylvania farmers,” said Perdue Farms Chairman Jim Perdue, who was joined by Gov. Tom Wolf and state Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding, along with renewable energy partner Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority (LCSWMA) executives, local elected officials, community leaders, farmers and others, to cut the ribbon and open the plant just in time for the fall harvest.
“It also sets a new standard in terms of community investment, economic potential and environmental gains,” Perdue said. “We truly appreciate all of the support we received from the governor and his entire administration to get this project up and running. This plant demonstrates our shared commitment to ensure agriculture remains strong and farmers have every advantage they need to remain competitive.”
Perdue AgriBusiness invested more than $60 million to design and construct the plant. It is the first large-scale commercial soybean processing plant to open in Pennsylvania. The commonwealth provided an $8.75 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant as part of its standard economic development portfolio to attract investment and create jobs.
“This plant is a game changer for farmers in Pennsylvania, opening new lanes of supply, new markets, and new opportunities in the commonwealth’s agriculture economy,” Wolf said. “My administration is committed to making sure that the agriculture economy is strong, and working for our commonwealth’s farm families and businesses.”
During construction, 99 contractors and subcontractors, including 92 from Pennsylvania, worked on the site. More than 1,250 associates were safety trained to work on the site. More than two-thirds were local employees. During early stages, about 30 to 40 people worked on site daily. As construction came to a close, more than 200 associates were working on site each day. The largest single shift had 325 associates on site. Once operational, the plant will support 35 long-term posts and spur an anticipated 500 additional jobs in crop production and transportation.
With a storage capacity of 1.5 million bushels, the grain elevator will receive, dry, store and ship soybeans that are grown and harvested throughout the region, as the adjoining plant processes the beans. Seven of the top 10 soybean producing counties are located within 50 miles of the plant.
“When the state committed to this project, it did so because we recognized the importance of investing in our agricultural infrastructure and the opportunities it held for Pennsylvania’s farmers,” Redding said. “This plant is going to create new demand for soybeans grown in Pennsylvania, provide greater marketing options, and it’s going to offer another close-to-home supply of processed soybean meal farmers can use to feed our growing livestock industry.”
Partnership with LCSWMA eliminates need for fossil fuels
In locating in Conoy Township, Perdue and LCSWMA formed a unique partnership that allows the plant to have a smaller environmental footprint than the typical soybean processing plant. It also ensures a reliable, long-term revenue source for the authority’s steam. Perdue will use steam from LCSWMA’s Lancaster Waste-to-Energy (WTE) Facility to heat the grain dryers. This enhances energy efficiency and avoids the need to heat boilers with fossil fuels. By using steam, there are no emissions related to fuel combustion from Perdue’s facility.
“LCSWMA is proud to work with Perdue on this innovative partnership,” LCSWMA CEO Jim Warner said. “This project exemplifies LCSWMA’s philosophy of discovering and applying ways to maximize waste as a resource to benefit our community.”
Plant will eliminate long-distance transport of soybeans and meal
With plans to process up to 17.5 million bushels per year, Perdue’s plant will eliminate the need to transport soybeans and finished product long distances. That’s good for the environment and farmers alike. Processing more soybeans locally will help farmers get the most value from their crops while benefitting livestock producers with more affordable feed.
Right now, most soybeans leave Pennsylvania for processing to come back as livestock feed. Pennsylvania produces 29.6 million bushels of soybeans and consumes more than 44 million bushels of soybean meal annually. Only about 10 to 12 million bushels are processed within the state. That transport carries a heavy environmental burden.
Fewer miles and waste-to-energy reduces greenhouse gases equal to energy use of 6,300 homes
According to a study by engineering firm AECOM, Perdue’s plant will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with transportation, and through the use of waste steam from LCSWMA’s WTE Facility. Compared to current practices, Perdue’s project will result in a 72 percent net decrease in total emissions. That is equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions from the energy used by more than 6,300 homes in one year.
“Throughout this project, our company has been willing to go the extra mile, working openly with community stakeholders and regulators to bring this project to fruition for the benefit of Pennsylvania farmers,” Perdue AgriBusiness President Dick Willey said. “We’re grateful for all of the support we’ve received over the years. We’re eager to get started. And we’re confident that we’ll continue to meet the high expectations that so many have come to expect of Perdue.”
About Perdue AgriBusiness in Pennsylvania
Perdue AgriBusiness currently operates several grain receiving and storage facilities in Pennsylvania that purchase $148 million in local grain and other products from more than 2,000 farmers and local businesses. The company also sells feed ingredients and refined soybean oil to Pennsylvania food and feed processors as well as dry fertilizers and crop protection products to farmers worth more than $225 million.