The Great Falls Montana Development Authority (GFDA) announced this week that Pardue Grain has broken ground on a new $6.5 million pulse crop processing facility in Great Falls, Mont. The company’s new 32,000 sq. ft. building will create a dozen jobs and expand its pulse processing operation, including sorting, sizing, cleaning and bagging capabilities. The expansion is expected to open in August 2018.
“We are thrilled to break ground on this new facility and increase Montana producers’ access to foreign and domestic markets for value-added and Montana-branded products,” said Lisa Sammons, who co-owns Pardue Grain with her husband Roger Sammons. “The low operating costs and easy access to highways and rail lines make the Great Falls region an ideal place to expand pulse crop processing operations. We look forward to increasing our services for buyers and producers in the area.”
The project is located along the BNSF rail line on the Montana Blackfeet Indian Reservation. It will operate 20 hours a day, five days a week, processing 11 tons of pulse crops an hour. The expansion is being funded, in part, through a $5 million loan from First Interstate Bank, partially guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Program.
“We are excited to have Pardue Grain expand in the Great Falls, Mont., region. The investment continues to prove our area’s strengths for pulse processing operations that serve customers around the country,” GFDA president Brett Doney said. “It’s wonderful that, following the project’s completion, the new facility will offer full processing services to area pulse producers.”
Pardue Grain’s decision to pursue the project was sparked by one of eight food and agricultural processing business cases developed by GFDA with industry consultants and Montana agricultural organizations. GFDA also worked with USDA to provide a $350,000 IRP loan to help jump-start the project and gave coaching to help Pardue Grain develop an in-depth business plan to make its new operation in the area successful.
Montana has become the largest producer of pulse crops like lentils, peas and chickpeas in the U.S., and the acreage of pulse crops harvested in Montana has tripled since 2010. The Montana Department of Agriculture reported that pulse crops harvested in the state climbed from 600,209 in 2013 to 1.5 million in 2017.
“Pulse crop processing is quickly becoming one of the largest agricultural sectors in the state of Montana,” Sen. Jon Tester (D., Mont.) said. “This expansion will bring new jobs to rural Montana, boost the local economy and strengthen our state’s number-one industry.”
The Great Falls region has seen a string of agricultural investment recently from both local and international food processing companies. Montana Specialty Mills is creating a new $20 million processing center, and Pasta Montana has invested $6.5 million for a line expansion. Other investments include Montana Eggs, which recently opened a new $9 million facility; Montana Milling; General Mills, and CHS Nutrition.