HALLS, TENNESSEE - Cargill AgHorizons said it will invest $25 million at its Hales Point grain elevator near Halls in a modernization project that will significantly increase its storage capacity and improve the speed to unload grain to better service customers.

Local officials welcomed the news. "We thank Cargill for addressing a business opportunity that helps our farmers save critical time and reduces their transportation expenses," said Lauderdale County Mayor Rod Schuh. "Agriculture is our county's most prominent business and therefore the expansion of the granary is great news for Lauderdale County."

Commissioner Bill Hagerty, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, said the investment is a vote of confidence in the people and agriculture industry of rural West Tennessee. "The modernization project at Hales Point will give our farmers a competitive edge and better position the region for future growth and job creation," he said.

Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson said Cargill's investment at Hales Point "is a tremendous boon for the agricultural economy of Tennessee and more importantly will provide the state's grain farmers more options for getting their crops to market. In addition to the rural jobs it will create, this project will make Tennessee farmers more competitive in the growing world market for food and feed products."

TVA Senior Vice President of Economic Development John Bradley said "it is great news that Cargill is expanding their operations in Halls. TVA is pleased to foster development in this rural community by being a partner on the economic development team with Forked Deer Electric Cooperative, the State of Tennessee, HTL Advantage, and Halls and Lauderdale County leaders."

On an annual basis, Cargill will be able to double the amount of grain it can handle. "Our goal is to be the most efficient grain elevator for area farmers, and the additional storage space, as well as the increased unloading capabilities, will help us achieve that," said Kevin Mount, Cargill AgHorizons sales manager. Work on expanding the storage capacity should be completed by December. The additional storage capacity will allow Cargill to also buy milo/sorghum grain at some point in the future. Cargill buys mainly corn, soybeans and soft red winter wheat at Hales Point.

The elevator currently can unload about 10 trucks per hour. "We will significantly increase that number," said Tom Rodman, project leader, Cargill AgHorizons Mid-South Farm Service Group. "The lines of trucks can be pretty long at peak harvest times and these enhancements will minimize that issue. The goal is to realize an increase in our current unload capacity for the fall harvest this year."

The modernization project will allow Cargill to load a barge in less than two hours, much faster that the current rate of six hours. Most of the agricultural products at Hales Point are sent by barge to Cargill's export elevators in Westwego and Reserve, La. From there, they are shipped around the world.

"Hales Point is directly connected to the world's growing demand for food and feedstuffs," said Barry Brandstetter, general manager for the Cargill AgHorizons Mid-South Farm Service Group.

The elevator currently employs nine people, and three more Cargill jobs will be added at the facility because of the modernization. During harvest, the plant employs approximately 20 part-time workers.

In November 2010, Cargill installed a high-capacity grain dryer at Hales Point to increase the ability to unload grains during wet harvests. The Hales Point elevator was built in 1964. Cargill took ownership in 1999 through the acquisition of Continental Grain.

In Tennessee, agricultural production generates more than $2.8 billion annually in farm cash receipts. Agriculture accounts for $51.4 billion or 10.5 percent of the state's economy and close to 347,000 in employment. Soybeans ranked as the state's top agricultural commodity in 2009 at $565 million in the value of farm receipts. Tennessee farmers produce more than 156 million bushels of corn, soybeans and wheat on 2.6 million acres of cropland annually.

SOURCE: Cargill