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Cherokee Pioneer plant grows with success

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

By Nancy Hohbach, Correspondent

Pioneer Hi-Bred International put Cherokee County on the map, particularly Aurelia, when it built a 92,000 square foot plant to process soybeans for seed.

It started eight years ago with 23 employees. Folks scrambled to get interviewed for various positions. Now the plant has 32 regular employees, 41 during the busy season (fall, winter and spring).

There have been three additions to the plant which made the facility more than double in size. It went from 92,000 square feet to 197,520 square feet.

In the beginning, they started with 30,000 acres of soybeans contracted to the plant; now they have contracted 60,000 acres. Farmers are contracting more acres as they have confidence in the seed and profitability in the product. They now keep the area of seed growers north of Interstate 80 and primarily in northwest Iowa.

Pioneer was started in 1926 with Henry Wallace and eight associates who developed, produced and sold the Hi-Bred corn. They kept planting small plots and eventually convinced others this was the seed to plant. For 75 years, they developed scores of corn and soybean hybrids which deliver some of the best agronomics and performance available for their time. Since 1926, the U.S. corn yield has increased five fold. Much success has happened with soybeans as well.

Much of the building space is used to accommodate black pro boxes which hold a great deal of seed. Many farmers are not content with opening 50 lb. bags of soybean seed. It is convenient for them to use the pro boxes which were developed for Pioneer. Presently, there is space for 27,000 proboxes in the building going as high as nine boxes up, row after row.

During the off season, employees are busy cleaning the boxes and sitting them upside down, readying them for the harvest season. They deliver seed in the proboxes by the semi-load. Each box holds 2,500 lbs. That's a far cry from a 50 lb. bag. They also have the 250-500 lb. bags.

Tom Kellen, plant manager, said, "This looks like a great season for soybeans in this area. Other parts of the country like southeastern Iowa and into Illinois are having quite a drought. Without hail, we could have abundant crops. We didn't need to worry about rust and we have had decent rains. Aphids are coming out."

Pioneer has been an early leader in the development of commercial low linolenic soybean varieties working collaboratively with Iowa State University since 1991. Since 1994, the company has released five low linolenic varieties. In 1996, Pioneer enters a second partnership with Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario.

The first introduction of this new generation of low linolenic brand soybean variety 93M20 is high yielding was released this spring which features Roundup Ready trait. Oil is less than three percent linolenic acid and will most likely be used by snack food processors in the preparation of fried foods.

Pioneer has four dealers covering Cherokee County. Salesmen include Brian Freed, Mark Braunschweig, Jerry Slota and Dick Homan.

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