By MATTHEW WEAVER
VALLEYFORD, Wash. -- A new high-speed loading facility designed to accommodate grain and pulse rail shipments in Eastern Washington is expected to be operational for the 2013 harvest.
Cooperative Agricultural Producers, Inc. (Co-Ag) and Pacific Northwest Farmers Cooperative are partnering on the $17 million state-of-the-art facility, designed to load a 110-car unit train in 8 1/2 hours.
Co-Ag representative Jackie Tee said the facility would be along the P&L Branch of the state-owned Palouse River and Coulee City Railroad, halfway between Rosalia and Oakesdale, Wash.
The facility will load 60,000 bushels per hour and receive 40,000 bushels per hour.
"We're kind of known for our lack of protein in our red wheats around here," Tee said. "We'll be able to bring in some higher protein from the Midwest, blend it up and ship it to the coast for export."
Work on the facility will begin this summer.
Tee said that of the 56 million bushels of wheat produced in Eastern Washington and North Idaho, an estimated 17 million to 22.5 million bushels will go through the new McCoy facility.
Upon completion, the unit loader will increase the number of railcar shipments on the P&L line from about 2,000 per year in 2011 to 4,400 cars per year.
The companies estimate producers will save farmers more than $1.3 million in storage and transportation costs.
State Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, also a wheat farmer, said Ritzville Warehouse Cooperative increased profitability and obtained lower freight rates when it brought in a similar facility.
He hopes the McCoy facility will provide similar economies to farmers.
"They're building their shuttle loader with private capital," he said. "We have to have people using that rail infrastructure to justify owning it. If we keep the rail infrastructure, we have the long-term potential for other economic development due to freight rail."
"I think it will give the farmer and merchandisers the opportunity to move the crop downstream at a lower cost to the grower," said Chris Herron, past president of the Washington Association of Conservation Districts.