The announcement last week of a $400 million pea processing plant in central Manitoba caught many in the farm community by surprise.
“Peas? Don’t you mean soybeans?” was the most common response. By far.
With another 20-plus percent increase in soybean acres expected, there will likely be north of two million acres grown on the Canadian prairies in 2017. Nearly all of it ends up going to the U.S. or China to be processed, leaving many wondering if there’s an opportunity for a local crush facility.
A grassroots movement to attract investment in soybean processing capacity to southwest Manitoba has gained momentum over the last few months. The group, which consists of farm business leaders, economic development organizations and municipalities, has a goal of convincing potential investors or processing companies to build a soybean plant on the Canadian side of the border.
“They’ll look and respond to other people waving their hand, doing homework and offering grants,” notes Ray Redfern, who chairs the newly-formed Westman Opportunities Leadership Group (WOLG).
“We’re a more rapidly evolving market than anyone would have ever expected. That’s why we need to raise the bar for ourself, and make it easy enough (for crushers and potential investors),” he continues.
The group met with the deputy minister of agriculture and other provincial officials at Ag Days in Brandon last week, where Redfern says they emphasized how the viability of a soybean processing plant is closely tied to having a healthy hog industry as a primary driver of soymeal demand.
He also acknowledges there’s some urgency in their effort, as there’s been talk about plans for new soybean processing in North Dakota.
Redfern joined us to discuss their plans and what it will take to bring a soybean crusher to the region at Ag Days last week: