A unit-train shipping complex with capacity to store almost 2 million bushels of grain is planned for Syracuse in Otoe County.
Midwest Farmers Cooperative, based in Elmwood, has purchased some land for the 20-acre facility and has options to buy the rest of the property, said general manager Dale Piper.
The complex would be built about a mile east of Syracuse, a city of 1,947 people located 33 miles southeast of Lincoln.
The grain-handling complex, which would include a 9,000-foot rail loop for loading unit trains, has access to the Arbor Rail Line, owned by the Omaha Public Power District. The short line runs from Nebraska City to Lincoln and offers access to either Union Pacific or BNSF Railway. OPPD uses the line mainly for coal shipments to its power plant south of Nebraska City.
Piper said the cooperative is building the complex to give its members better access to distant markets, both foreign and domestic. Other cooperatives have built similar facilities in Dorchester, Brainard and Mead, just to name a few.
"It really is what most of the larger grain companies use to move grain," he said. "You have to be able to reach export markets beyond where you are able to truck it."
Midwest Farmers Cooperative was formed on Jan. 1 when Midwest Farmers Cooperative merged into Farmers Cooperative Co. of Waverly.
"This project will be the largest ever undertaken and is only possible from the financial strength of the combined companies," Piper said.
He declined to put a price tag on the project, saying the company still needs to obtain federal, state and local permits. Construction could begin later this year or next spring.
"It's about an 18-month process from construction to being operational," Piper said.
The cooperative expects to load one train per week. Each train is made up of a 110 rail cars, which can hold a total of 450,000 bushels of grain.
However, the complex will have enough storage capacity to load four trains, Piper said, and there's additional storage at its other grain elevators in the area. The site could be expanded to receive train loads of liquid and dry fertilizer.
"We're excited about a new venture and especially about a company that has a positive track record, and this will mean new jobs for not only Syracuse but also the county," said Stephanie Shrader, executive director of Nebraska City Area Economic Development Corp.
She declined to discuss the cost of the project or its potential economic impact on the area.
"Until the final numbers are assembled, we really don't have any numbers that we want to throw out there," she said.
The cooperative serves 26 towns in eastern Nebraska: Adams, Avoca, Bennet, Brock, Burr, Cook, Dunbar, Eagle, Elk Creek, Elmwood, Greenwood, Manley, Martell, Murdock, Mynard, Nebraska City, Nehawka, Otoe, Palmyra, Prairie Home, St. Mary, Syracuse, Tecumseh, Unadilla, Walton and Waverly.
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