Perdue opens long-planned soybean plant in Lancaster County
Perdue AgriBusiness is reaping seeds it sowed eight years ago with the unveiling of its soybean-processing plant in Conoy Township, Lancaster County.
The first truck carrying soybeans for cleaning, cooking and extraction rolled through the weigh station of the plant at 1911 River Road on Monday after a ribbon-cutting ceremony that included remarks from Gov. Tom Wolf, Perdue chairman Jim Perdue and other business and government representatives.
Perdue spent more than $60 million to construct and design the facility, which it calls the first large-scale commercial soybean-processing plant to open in Pennsylvania. The project received backing from the state in the form of an $8.75 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant.
Wolf, who noted he lives about a mile across the Susquehanna River from the plant, praised Perdue during Monday's ceremony, saying the facility would cut down costs for soybean farmers who currently have to ship their goods out of state for processing. The plant will also give growers the option of planting more soybeans in-state, he said, as well as give animal-raisers easier access to the feed produced there.
"It's a great win for Central Pennsylvania," he said.
Some of the plant's neighbors have not always felt that way. Perdue found itself the subject of intense scrutiny after it announced its plans eight years ago because of its intention to use a solvent called commercial hexane in the soybean oil extraction process.
The company has argued that hexane provides the most efficient means of pulling the necessary oils from the beans in a facility of this scale. Some people, however, have worried about the compound's potential to pollute the air.
Perdue answered concerns from residents and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, in part, by creating a process to recycle 99.9 percent of hexane used back into the production cycle.
Some neighbors, especially in York County's Hellam Township, are still not satisfied with the response. An appeal of Perdue's DEP air quality permit is currently before the state's Environmental Hearing Board.
Company officials took care Monday to point to other environmentally conscious aspects of the facility, including the plant's partnership with the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority. The authority has a waste-to-energy facility adjacent to the Conoy Township Perdue plant, and Perdue is paying the authority to use steam produced there to heat its grain dryers.
Attendees at Monday's event also praised the plant's economic impact. Ninety-nine contractors and subcontractors, led by York County-based Stewart & Tate, worked on building the facility, which will sustain 35 full-time jobs.
Perdue plans to process up to 17.5 million bushels of soybeans per year at the new facility, starting with the 2017 fall harvest.