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Stabenow, Officials Fete New Dairy Plant Coming to Michigan
Michigan Ag Connection - 08/10/2018

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, Thursday welcomed the announcement of a new dairy processing plant coming to St. Johns, Mich.

"When we make things here and grow things here, we create jobs in Michigan," said Stabenow. "This new dairy plant and recent improvements we made in the 2018 Farm Bill are bringing new jobs to Michigan and giving our state's top commodity a needed boost at a critical time."

One of the largest dairy processing operations in the country is expected to open near St. Johns in 2020 creating nearly 300 jobs, state and local officials announced Thursday.

The $555 million project will sit on 146 acres in St. Johns, a portion of which was land that previously belonged to Bingham Township.

"This is a huge deal not only for the region but for the state overall," said Jeff Mason, the director of the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

The project will have "a profound impact" on St. Johns and the agriculture development in the state for decades, said Bob Trezise, the president and CEO of the Lansing Economic Area Partnership. LEAP, a regional economic development agency that works in Ingham, Clinton and Eaton counties, first started working on the project three years ago.

"This isn't just landing a couple businesses with jobs," said Bob Trezise, the president and CEO of LEAP. "This is establishing a new level of ag tech production that's going to enormously impact the entire dairy ecosystem of our whole state."

The 300 jobs will be created over three years, with positions raging from engineers to mechanics. The bulk of those positions will pay between $15 and $30 an hour, Trezise said.

Gov. Rick Snyder stood under a canopy in front of two large dairy trucks and acres of green land where the operation will be constructed in the St. Johns Industrial Park Thursday.

Snyder called the project a "huge achievement" for the state.

"The place to be is right here," he said. "I want to thank the people that are coming into our state to make this investment, and the hard-working dairy people in our state that are here that thought up the idea on how to put this great package together."

A $470 million, 250,000-square-foot facility will be owned by a partnership headed by Glanbia Nutritionals, a major Irish dairy producer with operations in several countries. Part of the project includes an adjacent $85 million 85,000-square-feet adjacent facility belonging to Proliant Dairy Ingredients, an Iowa-based company.

Glanbia will produce primarily produce block American-style cheddar cheese and whey, among other products. The company produces cheese for several brands. Proliant produces dairy solids that are used in food and feed manufacturing.

Glanbia has partnered with Dairy Farmers of America and Select Milk Producers. Glanbia will own 50% of the milk processing facility. DFA and Select Milk, which are large dairy co-operative investors, will own the rest. The Michigan Milk Producers Association, a dairy co-op with a manufacturing facility in Ovid, will be among the milk suppliers.

Dairy is Michigan's top commodity, contributing over $15 billion to the state's economy. Unfortunately, recent market instability and trade disruptions have caused many family dairy farms to take on additional debt or even go out of business. The financial uncertainty paired with a lack of processing capacity in the region has put Michigan's dairy farmers at a disadvantage. The manufacturing plant will provide a new outlet for Michigan milk producers and create hundreds of manufacturing jobs in St. Johns.

Prior to the new plant announcement, Stabenow has led the effort in Congress to support Michigan's dairy industry and grow employment opportunities across agriculture. In June, the Senate recently passed Stabenow's bipartisan 2018 Farm Bill, which includes unprecedented investments for Michigan's dairy farmers and strengthens Michigan's agricultural economy.

The 2018 Senate Farm Bill creates a new-and-improved safety net called Dairy Risk Coverage to help dairy farmers weather financial uncertainty and builds on the improvements Stabenow authored in the Bipartisan Budget Act that has provided nearly $10 million in support to dairy farmers this year so far. The Farm Bill also refunds farmers who received coverage under the former safety net -- the Margin Protection Program -- which did not live up to expectations. The bill also includes a new donation initiative that helps Michigan dairy farmers provide milk to local food banks.

The Michigan Strategic Fund board on Thursday approved an Agricultural Processing Renaissance Zone proposal, which would freeze state and local property taxes on the site for a 15-year period.

The project also will also likely receive $1 million in grant support from Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, $2 million in Community Development Block Grant funds and about $500,000 from the Michigan Department of Transportation for road work related to the project.

Trezise said the incentives and strong regional and state cooperation helped win the development for St. Johns.

"This company was looking all over the United States and all over Michigan for sites, so we competed and won," he said.

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