Pipeline Foods brings economic boost to Burke County with organic grain operations

Submitted Photo Under new ownership of Pipeline Foods, the Lignite elevator has gained new purpose as a facility for cleaning, blending and shipping organic wheat.

LIGNITE – A small, rural grain elevator gained a new lease on life with the purchase by Pipeline Foods of Minneapolis last fall.

Pipeline Foods, a global organization with a focus on non-GMO and organic food ingredients, bought the Lignite elevator from Cenex Harvest States, which had been operating the facility to handle malting barley. Pipeline Foods also is constructing a grain terminal a few miles north of Bowbells.

“The Lignite elevator has proved to be a solid investment for Pipeline Foods,” said Neil Juhnke, managing director of Assets & Operations. “We have been moving a steady flow of organic wheat through the facility, cleaning and blending to customer specifications and shipping the outbound product out via rail and truck to customers all over the United States. As we prepare for the 2018 harvest we are excited by the prospect of bringing our new facility near Bowbells on line, which will more than triple our capacity to handle organic grains and pulses and bring two more jobs to the community.”

The Bowbells grain terminal will be fully automated, compliant with Food Safety Modernization Act regulations, and designed to receive, clean and blend organic crops to meet rigorous specifications and ensure transparency and tracing ability, according to Pipeline Foods.

Dan Folske, North Dakota State University Extension agent for Burke County, said the Lignite and Bowbells operations will be positive for the local economy.

“The elevator at Lignite is an old facility, which is too small and inefficient for conventional crops in today’s market, and most similar elevators have already been closed and torn down. Transitioning that facility to handling organic grains should mean that it has a viable future for years to come, with corresponding jobs and property taxes for the city of Lignite and Burke County,” Folske said.

The Bowbells facility could bring up to six more jobs, he said. The modern facility will be capable of loading 26-car unit trains so will ship the bulk of the grain moving to millers and major buyers, he said.

The Bowbells facility will be strategically located adjacent to the BNSF main line railway and U.S. Highway 52 to allow for efficient rail and truck transport.

The Lignite elevator will continue to be used to supply small buyers.

The Lignite elevator is a 3,500 metric ton facility with dual access to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Canadian Pacific railways. The elevator is supplementing Pipeline Foods’ storage and origination program in Saskatchewan, which increases efficiency and allows Pipeline Foods to grow its volume and customer base in the region. The company forecasted sending 25,000 metric tons or organic wheat through the elevator in 2018, with increasing capacity after initial capital investments are made.

There are no certified organic growers in Burke County. However, Folske said, Pipeline Foods’ operations create opportunities for growers interested in organic. He added the company also has indicated it may offer contracts for certain varieties of non-organic barley and oats at some future time.

Pipeline Foods said it is targeting $300 million to $500 million over the next three to five years to build out its sustainable supply chain. The company is actively buying all classes of organic grains, pulses and oilseeds.

The company has undergone a flurry of activity in the past year, acquiring grain elevators in Saskatchewan and Missouri as well as North Dakota. Last October, the company joined Delta Institute and partners from various sectors in a three-year project to accelerate investment in regenerative agriculture practices.