Ranks grow at co-op facility

Matthew Weaver/Capital Press Willard Wolf, president of the Cattle Producers of Washington Livestock Processors Cooperative Association, talks about his hopes for the processing facility, now entering the design and construction phase, on his ranch in Valleyford, Wash., the afternoon of April 3.

Proponent says slaughter facility will create new options for local economy

By MATTHEW WEAVER

Capital Press

VALLEYFORD, Wash. -- Willard Wolf leaned against his truck on his ranch south of Spokane and smiled as he ran through a mental checklist of the board members for the Cattle Producers of Washington Livestock Processors Cooperative Association and cited their accomplishments.

"We've got such a powerful board," Wolf said. "I'm kind of a small peanut compared to some of the people we have supporting this who are on the board. You just can't round those kind of people up every day."

The board recently expanded from five members to nine. New vice president Fred Brown is CEO of Spokane technology company Next IT and a Colbert rancher. New directors are Cass Gebbers, of Brewster; Asa Timm, of Coulee City; Jeff Schmidt, of Othello; Gary Galbreath, of Ritzville; and Randy Emtman, of Valleyford.

They join Wolf, Wade King and Ed Gross, of Reardan.

King's wife, Teresa, will serve as secretary to the board until the first staff is hired.

Wolf is the newly elected president of the association, which raised the funds to build a $1.6 million, 5,600-square-foot livestock processing facility in Odessa, Wash.

Construction bid documents for the slaughter facility's roads and utilities went out the first week of April.

The association is considering design options for the facility, said King, the treasurer and a rancher in Coulee City.

Wolf said the facility is designed to be a federally inspected multi-species plant and is seeking hog, goat and sheep producers to be involved.

"The real need is for an all-species plant that will be federally inspected," he said.

Wolf said the number of smaller processing facilities in the Northwest has declined by 90 percent over the last 10 years. At the same time, consumer demand for local products has soared.

Last year, more than 4,000 cattle and 2,800 hogs were shipped out of state for federally inspected processing, Wolf said, estimating those numbers will increase this year.

"What's that do to the economy for the state of Washington?" Wolf asked. "What's that add to the expense for the producer?"

King said the facility will give producers the option of developing a marketing program to sell their animals, in addition to selling through sales barns, order buyers or privately.

Ranchers who have individual marketing programs are successful, Wolf said, but processing facilities are needed to support them.

"We need to do something to create some more activity and possible income for that younger generation," he said. "This packing house gives them one of those opportunities if they want to take it."

The facility is expected to be completed in November, King said.

The land is purchased and money requirements have been met, Wolf said.

"It's been a lot of progress in a very short time, compared to most endeavors like this, and it's all due to good people," he said.

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