Montana Specialty Mills starts work on $20m facility

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock/abluecup
© iStock/abluecup

Related tags Organic food Organic certification

Montana Specialty Mills is starting work on a new processing facility geared to provide non-GMO and organic feed ingredients, says company president.

The company broke ground on the new specialty crush facility at the end of July, said Steve Chambers, president and CEO. Site work has started and preliminary grading and initial foundation work is in progress.  

The new location in Great Falls, Montana is expected to expand production and serve as a replacement to a decommissioned facility that had been in operation for about 70 years, he said. The new plant is intended to open in the fall of 2018.

“It’s geared at about 60,000 tons [of seed crush] a year,”​ he told FeedNavigator. “Typically when you process oilseeds you start with the seed and extract the oil, and what’s left is the meal and oil goes into the food markets and you process the meal for feed.”

The new crush facility has been in discussion for about 10 years, he said. “The process of finding the location and putting it all together, it’s more of an extension of our existing business,”​ he added.

The company will not produce conventional oilseed crush at the location, said Chambers. It is working with the Non-GMO Project for some of the certification process and with organic certifiers as well.  

“The demand for non-GMO and organic oils and meals currently is being served by a lot of import material,” ​he said. “Our efforts are to build a North American supply chain.”

Organic growth

Consumer demand​ for organic products in the US has had expanded markedly from the 1990, according to the USDA.

Organic products account for 4% of total food sales. Acreage and livestock produced with organic standards also have increased however, the market continues to grow and there is considered to be a gap​ between production amounts and market.

Total value of organic agricultural products grew from $5.5bn in 2014 to $6.2bn in 2015, according to the USDA. Crop sales went from $3.3bn to $3.5bn during that period. 

Facility details and market expansion

The new facility is located in Great Falls, Montana, which is the same city where the company’s decommissioned processing center was situated, said Chambers. The company has a long established relationship with the community.

“We have a 20 acre parcel,”​ he said of the new location. It includes oilseed storage, a processing building and crush plant, refinery and storage for meal and oils, he added.

The company also located in the Great Falls Montana Development Authority’s AgriTech Park because of the rail access it offered, he said.

When operating at full capacity, the new oilseed crush facility will expand the company’s production by four times the amount it currently generates, he said. However, it is expected to take two crop years to reach that stage.

The processing center is focused on work with canola, flaxseed and other oilseeds, said Chambers. It will produce protein meal for animal feed and edible oils.

Most oilseeds used will be sourced from producers in the region, he said.

“That region around the Great Falls area is a pretty major crop production area,” ​he said. “Canola has become more established in that area – we’ll be able to draw a supply.”

The market focus for the feed ingredients produced likely will be the Western US, he said.

“Any place where they use canola meal in rations we’ll be targeting,” ​he said. “We’ll be targeting the non-GMO and organic markets – historically we’ve been involved in those markets, and those markets are growing.”

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