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Montana Ag Network: Cargill commits to Montana through canola

Posted at 11:25 AM, Apr 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-19 13:25:32-04

Cargill’s history in Montana dates back to a grain project in Valier in 1908.

Now, the Minnesota-based agriculture company is embarking on a new venture, headquartered in a new facility.

Walking into the company’s new facility north of Great Falls is like stepping back in time.

“We looked to make it look like an old elevator you’d see in the past,” said Cargill Senior Trial Agronomist Keith Horton.  “We brought in reclaimed wood for across Montana.  After the fact, we found out the bulk of that wood came from an old Cargill elevator in Hingham.”

While the company made the 18-thousand square foot building look like a page from the past, it did so with an all-inclusive eye to the future.  It features a high tech conference room that’s already been used by several community groups.

Cargill has a long history in Montana, but is looking to make a major agricultural impact with its multi-purposed omega-3 canola project.

“Number one canola will be a great rotational partner for our growers in the area,” said Horton.  “Number two it’s a highly sustainable project.  The amount of omega-3 we get from 160 acres of our crop will replace one-point-seven million pounds of fish being taken from the ocean.”

Canola is catching on in Montana.  Two years ago there were 60-thousand acres grown, last year 100-thousand.  Montana is already the nation’s number one pulse crop producer.  Canola will help growers diversify even more.

“It will give them the ability to have a broadleaf crop,” said Horton.  “They can control things that they couldn’t control in their wheat and barley crop and vice versa.  The wheat and barley crop will complement the canola as well.  So we see the growers having another option and ultimately another market they can be a member of.”

With field trials spread from Fort Benton to Valier, Cargill is hoping to cater to farmers in all parts of the Golden Triangle.

“We’ll have close to a thousand different varieties of canola in those trials,” said Horton.  “We’re really looking for that needle in the haystack.  What’s the hybrid that’s really going to perform in that area?  What works in Fairfield may not work in Conrad and what works in Conrad may not work in Fort Benton.”

The Great Falls location currently has six employees but could employ up to 20 in the future.  The facility could well become a one stop shop.

“When our customers come in and they want to know what’s coming in the future, we’ll have the people on the research and development side that can tell them what’s coming five or six years down the road,” said Horton.  “If they want to buy canola in the future, they’ll have a sales team they can come straight to and ask questions.”

Cargill’s Great Falls facility also features a summer internship program.  This summer, two students from Montana State University and one from Iowa State University will work in the Electric City.

The company has also made a commitment to Great Falls by getting involved with service projects.  Cargill has partnered with the Great Falls Public Library, Habitat for Humanity, the Great Falls Community Food Bank, and helping fill backpacks for students in need.

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