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AGP Project keeps more than bragging rights in Dawson

This aerial view shows the AGP facility in Dawson. A multi-million project now under way will modernize the facility to improve its efficiency. It will include replacing its two original extractors with a modern, single extractor, according to AGP. The Dawson plant can trace its history to an opening in November 1951 as the Tri-County Cooperative Soybean Association. Submitted photo

DAWSON -- Dawson has held bragging rights as the home to the first farmer-owned soybean processing plant in Minnesota since the Tri-County Soy Bean Cooperative Association began operating in November 1951.

The community of 1,600 in Lac qui Parle County should be holding on to a few things more important than the bragging rights for a long time: jobs, value-added earnings and the market for locally raised soybeans created by the existence of the AGP Processing plant in Dawson.

AGP Processing Inc. is in the early stages of a multi-million dollar improvement to its soybean processing facility in Dawson. The modernization project helps assure the long-term viability of the plant by making it a more efficient processing facility, according to Mike Maranell, senior vice president of corporate relations for the company based in Omaha, Neb.

The project will include the replacement of the facility's two original soybean extractors with a new, single extractor. The extractor will be assembled onsite.

The overall project involves a comprehensive upgrade to all of the processing equipment, controls and infrastructure throughout the facility, noted Maranell. The project is slated for completion by summer 2011.

The plant currently employs 70 people, according to information from the company and processes more than 550,000 acres of soybeans annually for domestic and international markets.

It produces soybean oil and soybean meal. A portion of the product is destined for livestock and poultry operations in the region, but a large share is also exported to customers in the Pacific Rim. It is shipped by rail from Dawson to AGP's Port of Grays Harbor facility in Aberdeen, Wash. The port facility is also in the midst of a multi-million dollar improvement and expansion, according to the company.

AGP's commitment to Dawson for the long-term has meant a great deal to the community, according to Kim Miller, president of the Dawson Chamber of Commerce.

Miller said Dawson's economy is tied very tightly to agriculture, and that has benefitted the community during this recession. The agricultural economy has remained relatively stable as compared to some other industries, she noted.

The community has held its own and even shown some growth, she pointed out.

Along with the AGP soybean processing plant, Dawson is home to the American Milk Producers Inc., dairy processing facility and Noah's Ark, a meat-processing plant.

Dave Bovee, Dawson city manager, said AGP has been valued as a good corporate citizen in the community. The long-term commitment represented by this investment has been the cause for much optimism in the community, he said.

AGP is optimistic about the prospects for soybean processing. In a news release announcing the project, company CEP Marty Reagan stated that soybean utilization continues to reach all times high "with exciting value-added opportunities in food products, growing industrial uses such as soy biodiesel, and new, environmental-friendly soy-based products.''

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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