KENNEBEC, SOUTH DAKOTA, U.S. — Wheat Growers officially broke ground on a state-of-the-art shuttle loader grain handling, fertilizer and agronomy facility in Kennebec, South Dakota, U.S., on Oct. 16.

The facility will be located along the soon-to-be rehabilitated rail line that is part of South Dakota’s expansion of heavy-rail service from Chamberlain to Presho.

Dirt work and construction will continue through this fall with the goal of having the agronomy facility ready for business by the winter of 2015-16 and the grain handling facility completed in time for harvest 2016.

Taking part in the groundbreaking program and ceremony were U.S. Sen. John Thune, South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture Lucas Lentsch, South Dakota Representative Jim Schaefer of Kennebec, Steve Halvorson and Bill Ferguson of Rails to the Future, Wheat Growers Board President Hal Clemensen and Wheat Growers Chief Executive Officer Dale Locken.

Locken praised the efforts of individuals and local, state and federal government officials who worked together on the Rails to the Future project.

“In February we brought the promise of building this facility to the South Dakota legislature,” Locken said. “The Wheat Growers board of directors made a commitment at that time to build a first-class grain shuttle loading facility, fertilizer plant and agronomy service center to service the needs of south central South Dakota farmers if the heavy rail line was built. This new facility will be the result of the collective efforts of so many people we want to thank today.”

Clemensen emphasized the local nature of the cooperative and the role it will play in the community.

“Wheat Growers is a local co-op, a farmer-owned co-op,” Clemensen said. “The business done with our co-op stays in our co-op, as proven by this project. Our board of directors was unanimous in our support of this project from the time Rails to the Future proposed extending heavy-rail service from Chamberlain to Presho. And now, thanks to the hard work of many partners, the 40-mile Chamberlain to Presho railroad line will be rehabilitated, enabling Wheat Growers to proceed with our new Kennebec facility, delivering on our promise to this region and the state.”