ConAgra issued permit for U.S.$225-million soybean processing plant in Indiana

by Teresa Acklin
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   OMAHA, NEBRASKA, U.S. — ConAgra Inc. has been given the go-ahead to build a U.S.$225-million soybean processing plant in southwestern Indiana, near the Ohio River. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has regulatory authority over the nation's waterways, issued its permit to ConAgra last month. Larry Justice, vice-president of operations, said plans are to open the plant by spring 2000. It will employ about 250 people.

   Mr. Justice said the plant will likely be built in rural West Franklin and not at ConAgra's original site choice in Mount Vernon, which is about 15 miles west of Evansville. Both sites are along the Ohio River. In issuing the permit, the corps said it preferred the West Franklin site over Mount Vernon, which would be immediately adjacent to a residential neighborhood.

   ConAgra also faced a lawsuit by Consolidated Grain & Barge Co. over its plans to build its soybean processing plant in Mount Vernon. Consolidated opened a U.S.$20-million soybean processing plant there late last year.

   In November, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a lower court's ruling that prohibited ConAgra from locating its plant at Mount Vernon.

   Rather than start anew with the permit process in Mount Vernon, which has already taken 11 months, ConAgra now intends to build in West Franklin, Mr. Justice said.

   Before construction can begin, an appeal of a state environmental permit must be resolved.

   The corps' report raised concerns about dust, noise and odor that will emanate from the plant, which is expected to process more than 1.9 million tonnes of soybeans per year. Environmental groups have opposed both sites, but the corps said it was not anticipated that the project would result in any long-term adverse effects on the general ecology of the area.