SIKESTON, Mo. -- A soybean-sunflower processing plant could mean millions to the economy of Southeast Missouri if plans go through.
A feasibility study is being done to see if there is enough support from soybean farmers to put up, operate and maintain a plant, according to Ray Fowler, project coordinator. He said the plant would be a farmer-owned, farmer-controlled co-op.
"It's going to come about. We think we can get the money to do it, and it's almost a sure thing," Fowler said. "Hopefully, October 2003 we'll be operating."
Cape Girardeau, Pemiscot, Butler, Scott, Mississippi, New Madrid and Dunklin counties would be included in the co-op.
The idea is to create a new market for soybeans and sunflowers by producing oil for human consumption.
Oil would be extracted from either crop by either mechanical means -- squeezing it out -- or with a hexane solvent and sent off for refinement before hitting store shelves. Whatever is left over will be made into meal to feed livestock, Fowler said.
A site has not yet been decided, but the ports at Scott City, New Madrid and Caruthers-ville are all being considered.
"This plant needs to be put on the river because of the cheap barge traffic," he said.
In addition to creating 50 jobs at the plant itself, Fowler said the new industry is projected to bring in another $20 million in related business.
The plant would process 3-5 million bushels per year, paying premium prices.
The feasibility study, which began Dec. 1, is being funded by a one-year $67,000 grant.