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Big deal in Delavan

By Staff | Jan 24, 2011

This grain elevator in Delavan, formerly the Delavan Farmers Co-op but now owned by WFS, will soon not be the only grain handling facility dotting the local skyline.

The letters WFS stand for “Working for Farmers’ Success.”

The local farmer-owned cooperative based in Truman is making a multi-million dollar investment to try and live up to its name.

Company officials have announced plans to build a $15 million grain elevator in Faribault County.

CEO Todd Ludwig says the cooperative has acquired land in Delavan for a possible site.

“It’s in the early stages and is not a done deal. There are still a lot of things that have to happen before we can start building,” says Ludwig.

He is referring to the various permits that must be attained and the approval from the Delavan City Council.

Ludwig says the cooperative also has two other sites between Delavan and Winnebago where the facility could be located.

To address any concerns and questions local residents might have, WFS representatives held a public meeting on Jan. 13 in Delavan.

Mayor Kevin Walker says cooperative officials had a power-point presentation explaining the proposed project.

Because the elevator would be located within city limits, agricultural land would need to be re-zoned for commercial use. Any conditional use permit issued would require council approval.

“It’s going to be an on-going process. It sounds like a great project, but there’s still a lot of paperwork that needs to be done,” Walker says.

The next step for the Delavan council, adds Walker, will be to hold work sessions and meet with their attorney to discuss permit requirements.

The idea of building a new elevator was a spur of the moment idea. It’s been in the works for two years.

WFS operates 20 elevators that serve more than 4,000 producers in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa.

WFS?officials cite aging grain facilities and farmers increasing their productivity as reasons for why a new elevator is needed.

“Producers have spent a lot of money on equipment to increase yields, but the grain industry has not built facilities to handle it,” Ludwig says.

The new elevator will serve a radius of up to 25 miles and would have a storage capacity of 5 1/2 million bushels.

Buyers of the grain are not expected to be local. Most of it will be transported by rail to ethanol plants, markets in the Southeast and Iowa.

Ludwig says the cooperative would like to have a site selected within the next several weeks.

WFS officials are hopeful construction can begin sometime this spring.

“We’re looking to have it partially functional by harvest time. It will take at least eight months to fully complete,” says Ludwig.

It’s not known for sure if any existing elevators will be closed.

Facilities in Easton, Wells, Hartland and Minnesota Lake suffered structural damage this past summer.

Craig Kilian, grain division manager for WFS, says there are plans to repair the elevator in Wells, but no decision has been made on the others.