The new Mill continues to be built higher and higher every day. We are pleased with the progress that has been made. Matt Severson, VP Risk Management  says, "The new mill is going to provide some of the best technology in the feed industry to the area and that is something all of our producers will benefit from."



Premier Co-op Breaks Ground on New Feed Manufacturing Facility
Westby, Wisconsin – May 19, 2016 - Premier Cooperative has announced its plans to build a new, state-of-the-art feed manufacturing facility attached to its grain facility on the north side of Westby. “Combining the new facility with the existing grain plant reduces the need for additional costly grain storage while eliminating the expense associated with daily trucking of grain to the current mills”, according to Andy Fiene, CEO, Premier Cooperative. Construction will start this spring and it will take about 15 months to complete. “This will be Premier’s single largest infrastructure investment in its 123-year history”, Fiene stated. “The board of directors and employees of Premier are proud to have the kind of support from our members that allows us to make such an investment in the future of animal agriculture in the area.” Fiene credits the former board of directors and employee team at Heartland Country Cooperative (HCC) for laying the groundwork for the project. Well before partnering with Premier in 2013, HCC purchased the property on the north side of Westby with a plan to one day build a new feed manufacturing facility.

An overview of the proposed new facility was presented at Premier’s annual meeting in January. Since then Premier staff has been working with contractors that specialize in this type of construction to solidify the final plans. Fiene stated, “the facility will be fully automated, meaning our team will be able to manufacture the highest quality animal feeds with the click of a mouse. We look forward to showing everyone in the area the automation and the entire operation at an open house in 2017”. The facility will be constructed by Wisconsin Feed Mill Builders, the same company that built Premier’s feed plant in Mineral Point that opened in 2009.

The new facility will not only grind and mix the highest quality feeds, it will also have a pelleting system. “By pelleting the feed we are able to ensure that the animals are receiving the right balance of ingredients in each pellet”, according to Charley Fisher, Premier nutritionist. “It also minimizes costly shrink at the farm which will help improve our member’s profitability.” Combined with the proven benefits of the corn flaking system at its Mineral Point location, Premier will continue to be the only full service animal nutrition supplier in the area with pelleting and flaking capability. “These are big investments, adding well over a million dollars to the cost of the project. However, we feel they are invaluable to our producer members”, stated Fiene.

One of the key driving forces behind the construction is the looming implementation of new federal regulations (Food Safety Modernization Act) in 2017 regarding the safe production of human and animal food. Like many other existing older mills, Premier’s current mills in Cashton and Westby will not be able to comply with the new regulations. Premier explored remodeling both facilities but it was cost prohibitive and did not allow for future growth. The decision to combine the two facilities into one operation offers the best overall solution. “Attracting and retaining a quality employee team is challenging. A new facility offers a much better work environment which will enhance our ability to provide our members with the best people, products, and services in the industry”, according to Fiene. While the employees will now be combined, the manufacturing within the facility will be segregated by an organic and conventional feed production line. The computer automation will enhance Premier’s adherence to industry standards for current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP’s), USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) standards, and Premier’s corresponding certification through the Midwest Organic Services Association (MOSA), all of which help ensure safe, compliant, high quality conventional and organic feeds.

A second key driver is the growth in feed sales at the Premier facilities in Cashton, Westby, and Richland Center over the past two to three years. “We’ve experienced 40-50% growth in the tons of feed sold through our mills. Our sales and operations staff are doing a tremendous job keeping up with this growth, but we’ve already had to turn away business due to a lack of production capacity, especially related to pelleted feed,” Fiene explained.

Premier is working on plans to repurpose the old feed facilities in Cashton and Westby. “The Westby location will add much needed storage space for our growing agronomy business next door”, Fiene said. “In Cashton, we are working with the Cashton Area Development Corporation as well as Peter Fletcher from the Mississippi River Regional Planning Commission in order to determine what the best future use will be for the current facility.” In the past Premier has worked with other local communities and business people to find alternative uses for other old mills it has had to close. “In Black Earth, Mt Horeb, Blanchardville, Darlington, and Cross Plains we’ve worked with the villages and local investors to bring new businesses into the facilities”, stated Fiene. “We look forward to helping to find a good future fit for the property in Cashton that can enhance the downtown.”

Premier Cooperative is the oldest farm and consumer supply cooperative in the United States. Founded in 1893, Premier serves members throughout the southwest quarter of Wisconsin, northern Illinois, eastern Iowa, and SE Minnesota. Its Natures Grown Organics brand is sold in retail outlets and directly to producers in over 17 states. With locations in 19 communities, Premier’s 350 employees provide agronomy, animal nutrition, propane, bulk petroleum, grain, hardware, lumber, automotive, and convenience store products and services to about 7,500 members and thousands more customers. As a cooperative, Premier returns its profits to its members each year as patronage refunds. For more information about Premier visit premiercooperative.com.

 
 
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