Written by Jack Ries
Some of you may have noticed we have a new neighbor just a few miles north of Marietta, just outside of Bainbridge. Many of you may already know that this is the new Perdue Agribusiness soybean processing facility. There has been a lot of talk in our area about this new plant, with a lot of speculation about what the plant is doing and how it is affecting the local area, so I decided to write this article to help inform everyone about exactly what is going on at the new facility.
First off, what is this plant doing? To put it simply, they are taking in soybeans from local farms, and processing those soybeans into three usable products: soy meal, mill feed, and soybean oil. Soy meal is a high-protein, low-fat feed ingredient primarily used in poultry farming. Mill feed is made of ground soybean hulls and pods and is an excellent high-fiber supplement for cow and pig feed. The soybean oil produced at this plant is used for the production of edible vegetable oil and bio-diesel fuel.
Secondly, why did Perdue decide to put this plant here? South central Pennsylvania is one of the top soybean producing regions in the country. Lancaster and York are the number one and two soybean producing counties in the state, and before this plant was built, soybean farmers in our area were having to pay the freight to export their soybeans out of state, or even overseas, for processing, which hurt their bottom line. By building this plant here, Perdue has allowed soybean farmers in Pennsylvania to be able to ship their crops locally, earning them more money in the process. During harvest time, this facility will predominantly process locally grown soybeans, which will greatly help the region’s agricultural economy. Conveniently, local farmers and feed producers who are looking to purchase soy-based feed ingredients will save money on shipping these feed products to their farms.
Lastly, what are the environmental impacts that this plant has on the local area? This is the one point that many people have been talking the most about, and have even expressed concern over. I know there have been some negative opinions regarding this facility because of the use of hexane as the solvent in the oil extraction process, but I can tell you that this is the greenest, most carbonneutral soybean processing plant in the entire country, per the Department of Environmental Protection permits that this facility operates under. Perdue has entered into an agreement with the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority’s (LCSWMA) Waste to Energy plant, which is next door to the Perdue plant. LCSWMA provides steam as a heat and energy source for the Perdue operation. This means that the Perdue plant consumes zero fossil fuels in steam production, thus resulting in zero carbon emissions from this source. The oil extraction portion of the plant also recycles steam and steam condensate as a heat and energy source in its process, reducing the amount of steam needed to sustain the operation of the plant. Also, Perdue has constructed the most highly-technical state of the art facility, implementing the most current designs and numerous safeguards, which has resulted in a facility that recaptures and recycles over 99.95% of the solvent used in the oil extraction process. These engineered solutions have been incorporated into a plant that has the most stringent air permit of any plant of its type in the country. This engineering is also responsible for allowing all of the products (soy meal, mill feed, and soybean oil) that leave the plant to be nearly 100% solvent-free.
So to summarize, Perdue wants nothing more than to be a good neighbor to us and the farmers in the local area. And yes, sometimes getting a new neighbor can be scary, especially if you don’t know much about them, but many people will tell you that once you get to know your new neighbors, they’re usually pretty great. You just have to give them a chance.