Agriculture driving economic development in Idaho

Rik Dalvit/For the Capital Press

Anyone who needs proof that agriculture is growing the economy of the Pacific Northwest needed to look no further than Idaho’s Magic Valley last week.

On June 23, PerforMix feed-supplement and livestock-nutrition company broke ground for a new processing plant in Rupert. The facility will produce liquid feed supplement for the dairy and beef cattle industries. It includes four separate buildings with tanks and a truck yard on 6.8 acres of the company’s 10-acre site.

The plant will have a capacity for 100,000 tons of production annually and will employ 15 at maximum production, including five drivers through a partner trucking company, Ag Express.

The new facility represents significant investment, several millions of dollars. Operations are expected to begin in December or January.

The following day, WOW Logistics, a storage and distribution company that serves dairy manufacturers, broke ground in Jerome for a new 193,000 square foot ambient storage facility. Expected to be complete in January, the facility will expand WOW’s capacity at Jerome to nearly 626,000 square feet, including more than 82,000 square feet of refrigerated space.

The company expanded its Jerome facility in 2004 and 2008, operating as a public warehouse, or third-party logistics provider, for other regional dairy manufacturers as well, including Idaho Milk Products, Dairy Farmers of America, Darigold, and Brewster Cheese.

Officials estimate the expansion is valued at $16 million.

These two projects join several new agribusiness facilities and expanded operations in the Magic Valley, including new investments from Chobani, Monsanto, Clif Bar, and Frulact Group and expansions by Glanbia, McCain Foods, Calva/Brewster, and WillTran.

Taken individually, any of these developments would be welcome. Together, they have had a huge impact on Idaho’s economy.

New agribusiness and expansion in 2014 generated nearly $800 million in capital investment and created nearly 5,000 jobs, according to the Southern Idaho Economic Development Organization.

The manufacturers building in Idaho are adding value to the region’s agricultural production. Instead of exporting raw crops, added-value products such as Greek yogurt, cheese and french fries are made in Idaho and sold nationwide and internationally.

It only makes sense to build on what is already a success — agricultural production. And while other states are having some success in this area, Idaho agriculture, to borrow the words of state ag director Celia Gould, “is nothing short of outstanding.”

It does seem to be coming together in Idaho. Tax and regulatory structures are agreeable to business. The cost of living is low. The state’s leaders understand business and agriculture. Most members of the state Legislature have rural backgrounds or are farmers and ranchers.

Farmers and ranchers in Oregon and Washington have the same drive as their colleagues in the Gem State. The political leadership, however, could take a page out of Idaho’s book.

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