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Columbia Grain International expands

Columbia Grain International is one of the largest U.S. processors and exporters of high-quality pulses. That acclaim is due in a large part to successfully carrying out its mission: to safely cultivate high-quality crops from its local farmers.

CGI just topped off a record-breaking year of pulse sales by acquisition of a new processing plant in Hastings, Neb. This extremely favorable business combination will greatly benefit pulse producers in South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming and Kansas.

President and CEO of Columbia Grain International Jeff Van Pevenage, said, “With the expansion of acres in this area over the last five years, Hastings, Neb., will give both CGI and local producers a great opportunity to expand into this area and bring further value to local pulse growers.”



Plus, the new facility will be home to CGI’s first small-pack pulse brand for the consumer market. A press release noted that, “All products in the new line will be grown, procured, cleaned and processed by CGI for delectable pulses every family can trust, including peas, lentils, chickpeas and dry beans.”

LOCATIONS AND DISTRIBUTION



CGI Pulse Division Vice-President Tony Roelofs is excited about adding the Hastings location to the company’s already thriving international status and history. Roelofs himself has a comprehensive ag background.

After growing up on a Minnesota corn and soybean farm, he worked for 10 years at Archer Daniels Midland before moving on to CGI four years ago.

CGI, headquartered in Portland, Ore., oversees 60 locations in various other states including Idaho and Minnesota. Founded in 1978 by prior owners under a different corporate name, it was bought out, and is now wholly owned, by the Marubeni Company of Japan.

Approximately 20 years ago, growers added pulses to existing crop lines, Roelofs said. CGI acquired additional grain elevators to accommodate them. It now wholesales these popular commodities — both conventional and organic — nationally, plus exports them to over 50 countries worldwide.

As pulses expanded in the north growing region, CGI facilities began processing them using state-of-the-art cleaning equipment designed to expediently remove foreign materials, a valued step previously and tediously done by hand.

HASTINGS PLANT

In December 2020, CGI purchased the former specialty corn and soybean Hastings facility (built in 1979) from Gavilon Grain. Modifications began immediately.

At 60,000-square-feet, the large plant is being refurbished to handle up to 286,000 bushels of pulses. CGI anticipates processing more than 50,000 metric tons of pulses annually at this particular location alone. These products will be used for human consumption and pet food.

Miscellaneous renovations, including addition of new equipment, are slated to be completed by early spring 2021, Roelofs said. He added that area growers haven’t always been able to sell their pulses on a consistent basis. The new CGI Nebraska facility will provide sales stability for these crops.

Hastings, which will provide year-round domestic and worldwide markets, is served by both the BNSF and Union Pacific railroad lines.

“Pulses continue to grow in popularity both internationally and domestically,” Roelofs said, adding, “They work very well in rotation with wheat and other cereals to improve soil health and yields.”

Leading the Hastings facility transition/expansion to pulse processing is Plant Manager Marvin Fast. He came on-board with CGI on Jan. 1, 2021, after spending 38-plus years with Gavilon Grain, the Hastings facility former owner.

Fast said that his tenure with Gavilon began “straight out of college,” in 1982. He started with the primarily corn and beans processor in its elevators and worked his way up the chain. He now manages the 11-employee CGI Hastings plant, estimating that number could go as high as 20 if pulse growth eventually requires a 24/7 operation. Safety and efficiency go hand-in-hand.

THE PROCESS

Pulses arriving to fill an existing order are graded at the elevator. Next, it’s on into the plant where each load is cleaned and split into a bin. Using dried peas as an example, Fast said that Hastings can process an average of 450-bushels per hour.

After these representative peas fill 50 kg, 110 pound bags, the product is mechanically stacked, 25 bags per pallet. They are then pulled off the line and moved to plant locations based on their ultimate destination.

When loaded onto trains, 72-76 pallets fill each boxcar. Fast noted that it generally would take eight hours from arrival at the plant entrance for one similar load of peas to go into a boxcar, given 3,300 bushels per car. A large 55,115-bushel order would take 130-hours and 17 boxcars to totally process, start to finish, given there are no glitches.

Hastings Plant Manager Fast is extremely optimistic about his position and the new CGI facility’s future.

“I’m excited about the opportunity that CGI is providing me and surrounding producers, offering a year-round bid for the pulse market,” he said.

Pulse growers seeking additional information about CGI’s new Hastings facility can contact its Manager Marvin Fast, at (402) 463-8162. CGI’s website is http://www.columbiagrain.com. The company can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and Instagram.


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