FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Lewis County is an area of historic and ongoing agricultural significance, with many producers and growers representing the third or fourth generation working on family-owned farms. These local producers have experienced catastrophic flooding, the loss of processing facilities, regulatory and marketing challenges, and the lack of adequate infrastructure to support agribusiness for many years.
In an effort to address these challenges and to advance the agricultural economy in southwest Washington, the Port of Chehalis and Northwest Agriculture Business Center, in collaboration with regional producers and partners, identified the need for the Southwest Washington Grain Project. This project was initiated in response to growers’ concerns, and is supported by a comprehensive regional study conducted by Washington State University Extension in 2018. The project boasts an impressive list of stakeholders, including the Northwest Agriculture Business Center (NABC), Thurston EDC, Lewis County Commissioners, Lewis Economic Alliance, Great Western Malting, Valley Agronomics, and many more. The finished project will result in the establishment of a rail transload and aggregate storage facility located in the Port of Chehalis’ Industrial Park in Lewis County, Washington. This facility will help replace the loss of processing vegetable production with viable regional alternatives, enable regional producers to serve new and existing markets, insulate regional producers from volatile commodities pricing, and support the development of a more secure regional food system.
Since early 2019, local producers have been working closely with NABC, WSU Extension, and the University of Oregon to explore developing a small grain economy, particularly malting barley, in western Washington. This work, and the dedication of a group of regional growers led to the formation of the Southwest Washington Growers Cooperative, dedicated to fostering agricultural development among local growers. Today, the Cooperative includes thirty-one active members working toward enhancing the success of family farms through collaborative opportunities. Infrastructure remains a crucial element to success and is necessary to provide storage and efficient transportation of crops to regional buyers, most of whom require upright storage and rail transport.
In pursuit of this objective, the Port of Chehalis, with support from stakeholders, partners, and elected officials, has sought funding from local, state, and federal sources. Thanks to the commitment of legislative officials, collaborators, and Port of Chehalis staff, the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA) has awarded $3.14 million to the Southwest Washington Grain Project through its Public Works and Economic Adjustment Assistance Funding Opportunity. This funding, along with the $1.75 million awarded through the Washington State capital budget in 2020, will allow for the construction of a publicly accessible rail transload facility comprising upright grain bins and conveyors for storing, loading, and unloading grain.
Once completed, the storage and transload facility will bolster regional food systems security and empower the region’s grain producers to tap into regional, national, and international markets.
Estimates indicate that the completed facility, operating at 75 percent capacity, will generate approximately $230,000 in annual revenue through transfer and storage fees. The prosperity of local farms, in turn, bolsters secondary agricultural services such as equipment dealers and suppliers of seeds and fertilizers and creates ancillary jobs. Moreover, regional farming activity contributes to businesses that utilize locally sourced products, including breweries, distilleries, and bakeries. According to agricultural economists at the Crossroads Resource Center, the multiplier effect of local sales stands at 2.6 times initial sales, which could generate up to $3 million in additional economic activity annually.
For more information contact Lindsey Senter – firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360.748.9365
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Port of Chehalis