Soy Innovation Campus gaining traction in St. Paul

Funding for a soybean crush and biodiesel facility in Crookston has passed a key hurdle in the Minnesota legislature. The proposed Soy Innovation Campus at the University of Minnesota Crookston will receive $5 million in funding as part of a bill authored by Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake), who chairs the Senate Agriculture, Rural Development and Housing Finance Committee.

Throughout the 2019 legislative session, farmer leaders from the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) have been pounding the pavement in St. Paul, meeting with legislators and Gov. Tim Walz’s administration to highlight the education and economic benefits of placing the SI Campus in northwest Minnesota.

“MSGA applauds Sen. Westrom, along with other committee members, for their steadfast support of the Soy Innovation Campus,” says MSGA Vice President Jamie Beyer. “We have more work to do, but this is a huge first step, and we are grateful to all the legislators and farmers throughout Minnesota who are backing this initiative.”

Polk County farmer Mike Skaug (right) has been urging legislators such as Deb Kiehl (left) to support a soybean crush and biodiesel in northwest Minnesota.

Westrom’s bill passed the Senate Finance Committee and now moves to a joint Senate and House Conference Committee for consideration.

“Low commodity prices have severely affected the agriculture community, especial dairy and grain farmers,” Sen. Westrom said. “This bill focuses on expanding markets and positively impacting farmers in the barns and fields, rather than growing bureaucracy in St. Paul.”

The University of Minnesota Extension conducted an economic impact study of a soybean crush and biodiesel facility. The numbers paint a picture of a Soy Innovation Campus that has the potential to reignite northwest Minnesota’s agriculture economy, where more than 1.5 million acres of soybeans were harvested in 2018. Soybean production throughout northwest Minnesota has increased by more than 300 percent in the past 20 years; the 11 counties that would benefit from the SI Campus produced more than 62 million bushels of soybeans in 2018.

According to the U of M study, the construction of the soybean and crush facilities would generate $134 million in economic activity and add an estimated 820 jobs, contributing nearly $323 million in new economic activity across northwest Minnesota. The plant would create 80 to 100 direct jobs and have an estimated payroll and benefits of more than $5 million.

When fully operating, the facility will increase the price of soybeans in northwest Minnesota by an estimated 10-to-20 cents per bushel.

“Legislators are seeing the same data as us, and they’re recognizing this facility would give an economic jolt to a region that tends to get ignored,” says MSGA Executive Director Joe Smentek. “We appreciate their endorsements, and we’re excited to keep advocating for the SI Campus throughout this session and beyond.”


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