$20 million-plus new grain elevator in the works for Henderson County farmers

HENDERSON, Ky. − Henderson County farmers for years have longed for a second major grain buyer here to which they could market their corn and soybeans.

Having another sizable grain elevator competing for local grain could potentially increase prices farmers receive — and, just as significantly, a newer, faster facility could offer an alternative to long wait times by grain trucks at the Gavillon grain elevator on South Main Street, which currently is the principal buyer of grain here.

Now, there are plans on the drawing board for just such a facility.

Greenfield Grain LLC, a subsidiary of Denver-based Greenfield Holdings LLC, is seeking permits for a grain elevator and loading dock on the Ohio River on a 25-acre site at the Henderson County Riverport on Old Geneva Road at the intersection with Industrial Park Drive.

Permits are being sought from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as well as the
Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, according to recent newspaper legal ads.

Greenfield envisions an investment that would be “significant,” the company’s interim
CEO, Kyle Egbert, said in a telephone interview with The Gleaner on Monday. “It’s not a
$10 million investment; it’s $20 million-plus.”

Greenfield has plans for four concrete grain storage silos measuring 140 feet tall with
diameters of about 50 feet, each with a storage capacity of 185,000 bushels each, or
740,000 bushels for all four, according to Chris Case, Greenfield’s director of
operations.

Its barge loading conveyor system would be capable of drawing grain from the silos or
directly from the pit into which farmers’ trucks would dump grain.

Case declined to project how many bushels of grain — principally, yellow corn, white
corn, soybeans and winter wheat — the company would buy and move through such a
terminal each year, but said: “We have very high expectations of what we think we can
handle through the facility.”

Of particular interest to farmers will be the speed at which the proposed elevator would
operate.

“There will be three truck pits (each) rated at 30,000 bushels an hour,” Case said. “It’s
fast.”

“If we’re in a position where we’re dumping in-house (to its grain silos) and loading (onto
barges), too, this facility will be capable of handling 500-plus (semi-trailer) trucks a day
without breaking a sweat,” Case said.

“That’s a lot,” Eddie Melton of Sebree, vice president of Kentucky Farm Bureau, said,
chuckling at the numbers. “That’s awesome.”

Case said the three truck pits will measure 12-by-28 feet. “They can pull those big
Wilson trailers over the pit and dump both hoppers at same time,” he said. “It’s a game-
changer for these guys. Get those trucks back in the field.”

“We feel we will have the most efficient, fastest facility in the region,” Egbert said. “We
think we’ll be able to move more grain through his facility than any around.”
“It’s designed so we can add on in the future,” he said. But Greenfield’s idea isn’t to
develop an enormous grain-storage facility here. “The idea is for the facility to be
extremely fast and load barges fast and be fast for the producer on a smaller footprint.

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“We’re listening to what the farmers say: efficiency and speed.”
“When we sit down with farmers, they care about two things,” Case said. “First, price.

The market dictates price. But a newer facility costs less to operate. Hopefully we’ll be a
market leader in (grain prices).”

Farmers’ second concern is efficiency at the elevator. “When we’re able to dump 500
trucks a day, there will be shorter wait times,” Case said. “That’s one we get hammered
on all the time. We’ll be best of class.”

“That’s a win-win,” Melton said. “It sounds great, especially for a producer. Anytime we
have another outlet for our grain, another purchaser for our grain, it’s a good thing for
farmers, especially if it’s a state-of-the-art facility that can unload trucks like that.

“We’re all having labor shortages,” he noted. A grain elevator that can reduce wait times
for farmers and their drivers “will help our efficiency and get them back in the fields,
especially when we’re having a really good crop” and need to get trucks back to unload
combines as fast as possible.

“I think this will have tremendous positive impact on the local ag economy, both for local
grain producers and those in the region,” Henderson County Judge/Executive Brad
Schneider said. “Competition is a good thing for grain markets. Greenfield will provide
solid, well-respected competition. That typically results in better prices for farmers.’

“I think probably one of biggest things is the competition with the prices,” agreed Jessica
Buckman, agricultural extension agent for the Henderson County Extension Office. “If
there are more elevators, they will be competing to have the best price. It gives the
producers more options to take their grain to wherever they can get a higher cost out of
it. Instead of just having one in the county, and it sets the price wherever they want, this
will help with that.

“Also, it’s very expensive to haul grain,” she added. “The more elevators we have, the
more options we’ll have, instead of having to haul all the way to (one main) elevator.

And sometimes the one here will get really backed up. This will reduce that.”
(There are other existing grain buyers for Henderson County farmers. Archer Daniels
Midland, or ADM, has taken over a smaller elevator on old Geneva Road formerly
occupied by Owensboro Grain and reportedly is making operational improvements. The
Azteca mill at the riverport contracts to buy corn, particularly white corn, from farmers.

Some local farmers also sell to the Tyson Foods feed mill near Sebree as well riverside
grain elevators in Daviess and Union counties. But Gavillon’s elevator near Downtown
Henderson remains the leading buyer of grain, according to local farmers.)
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While the proposed Greenfield terminal would employ a relatively modest 10 or 11
people, according to Case, Schneider said Henderson Fiscal Court sees its importance
in other ways.

Farmer Bob McIndoo, who sits on the Henderson Economic Development board, met
with fiscal court in executive session to explain “what this means to the ag community
and how important the ag community is,” Schneider said.

“It’s not always about jobs, it’s not always about the investment, it’s just how important it
is to our economy,” the judge/executive said.

On that basis, he said fiscal court has agreed in principle to provide $500,000 in
financial incentives if Greenfield proceeds with the project.

“I’m no expert, but it sounds like their technology is the latest and greatest,” Schneider
said. “Bob explained how speed is important, especially during harvest season.”

Missy Vanderpool, executive director of Henderson Economic Development, said that
promise of county financial incentives was crucial to landing Greenfield.

“How key fiscal court was in that project,” Vanderpool said. “We were going to lose the
deal” without local incentives.

Henderson County would be the proposed elevator’s principal source of grain, but not
the only source.

“We’ll have a significantly larger draw area than just one county,” Egbert said. “The
biggest benefit would come to Henderson County. But we’ll be pulling in from a larger
footprint.”

“You could almost call it Henderson, Union, Webster, Daviess, McLean (counties),”
Case said. “A facility this fast, it’ll pull grain from quite a ways away.”

However, the proposed grain elevator and loading facility isn’t intended to operate in a
vacuum.

The Henderson terminal is part of a much larger plan for Greenfield to become a sizable
grain exporter. It hopes to construct a $400 million grain export complex on the Gulf of
Mexico in St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana, which is says would be the first new
export grain elevator built on the Gulf since 1979.

“That’s really the keystone” to Greenfield’s business plan, Egbert said. The company is
seeking a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers that will be crucial to moving
forward with the Henderson terminal, he said.

“We’ve been working on it a year, a year and a half,” he said of the Louisiana permit.

“Once we have that, we’ll be full steam ahead on that project, (with a start of
construction) hopefully in the next six to eight months. Then this (the Henderson grain
elevator) is the next big project for us.” Construction here conceivably could begin in
2023.

Provide geographic diversity.

“Louisiana got a ton of rain at harvest, and it caused a little damage,” Egbert said. “If
you have geographic diversity, you can handle that damage.”

Pulling grain from a variety of areas — Louisiana, Western Kentucky and other areas in
the Corn Belt — would diversify weather and other issues.
“This affects the entire Mi ssissippi River System.” Egbert said. “This is good for
Americans in general.”

And, he said, the world. With grain shipments disrupted by Russia’s world in Ukraine
and issues with grain-producing Brazil, “there’s a gap that needs to be filed. U.S.
farmers want to fill it. They’ve shown they can do it, over and over. Better equipment,
yields going up. It all comes down to America feeding the world, to become this reliable
source of grain.”

Can provide good yields and have access to the river.

Henderson County in 2020 led Kentucky in soybean production with nearly 5.4 million
bushels while Union County led the state in corn production at more than 16.2 million.

Henderson County ranked third in corn production that year while Daviess County
ranked in the Top 5 in both.

Meanwhile, the riverport site provides access to one of the premier navigable
waterways in the country. Riverport Executive Director Greg Pritchett said the port has
agreed in principal to lease the 25-acre tract to Greenfield, pending permit approvals.

Greenfield envisions a barge-loading facility here that could load one barge while a
second is staged and waiting. Evansville Marine Services would be responsible for the grain terminal’s fleeting, such as moving barges around and connecting them to larger tows.

Greenfield Holdings is a privately held firm formed in 2019 by Christopher James, a
businessman who in years past operated a coal mine and built oil and gas storage
facilities, then launched a hedge fund called Engine No. 1, through which he famously
challenged energy giant ExxonMobile on environmental issues.

“Chris James looked at the ag market awhile back,” Egbert said. “It’s an international
market and there are only a few players” — gigantic firms such as ADM, Cargill,
Conagra and Bunge.

“He thought you could achieve greater margins through greater efficiencies,” Egbert
continued. “If you look at the bottleneck in system, it really is the export facilities. But if
you’re building exports, what about the supply chain?” Which is where the proposed
grain elevators and Henderson and come in.

Because James didn’t have experience or expertise in ag markets, he hired managers
such as Egbert — a CPA and CFO with experience in commodity trading in the
agricultural and other sectors — as well as Case, a former senior operations manager in
the grain division of Bunge, and Chief Operations Officer Cal Williams, who brought
experience from ADM. Gavilon and Bunge.

At its website, Greenfield Holdings describes itself as “an agricultural infrastructure
company that is developing a world-class asset base that can meet the growing
demand for U.S. agricultural products, particularly grain.”

“Something we’re proud of, it’s an American company,” Egbert said.

Last year, Greenfield declared that it is “developing its plans to build the country’s
foremost integrated grain platform.”

“Our mission is to create the world’s most efficient and sustainable grain handling and
logistics network for the future of agriculture,” the company says.

https://www.courierpress.com/story/news/local/2022/09/27/massive-new-grain-elevator-
project-in-the-works-for-henderson-kentucky-greenfield-grain/69512154007/