Congressman Mark Amodei, R-Nev., began his tour of the Dairy Farmers of America Fallon Plant Tuesday morning intently studying a series of 11-by-14 photographs that chronicled monthly progress of the plant since construction began in August 2012.
Then there was a light moment when Facility Manager Wesley Clark pointed to the December image that showed the ground covered with snow.
“I think it was 3 degrees or something like that … it was cold,” Clark said.
At that point, Churchill County Commissioner Pete Olsen chimed in, “And you’re from Idaho calling it cold.”
The harsh winter conditions are a distant memory now for a plant DFA reports will be equipped to process 2.4 million pounds of raw milk daily and, at full capacity, will produce 90 million pounds of dried dairy ingredients annually for customers in the U.S. and worldwide.
Amodei was informed the facility — billed as the first of its kind in the Western Hemisphere — is expected to begin operation possibly in December.
“We estimate substantial completion by the end of the fourth quarter,” Clark said.
Amodei went on to ask Clark when shipping is expected to begin.
“We hope to start shipping in the first quarter of 2014,” Clark replied. “When you start a new machine up, there are things that work well and things that don’t work so well. Hopefully, everything will work well.”
Olsen, a longtime Churchill County dairyman and member of the board of directors for Kansas City, Mo.-based DFA, also explained the market looks promising for dry milk products, especially in Asia.
“The market side is very strong right now,” he said. “It’s a good time for us to be in this market.”
One of the challenges locally will be to produce enough milk to meet the plant’s needs at a time when the dairy industry has been struggling, Olsen added.
“It’s going to be challenging the next couple of years to meet the supply demand,” he said. “The good news is, there’s a 3,000-cow dairy opening in Smith Valley and some dairies here are in line to be stood back up.”
The DFA milk powder manufacturing facility was just one stop during a visit to Fallon for Amodei, who has been touring Nevada’s District 2 since Congress adjourned for its five-week recess.
Amodei visited with Truckee–Carson Irrigation District (TCID) officials earlier in the morning and later spoke at the Fallon Rotary Club luncheon and stopped at Naval Air Station Fallon. The Congressman, who was elected to his first full term in November, was impressed with the DFA facility and the impact it has had in terms of stimulating job growth in Churchill County as well as the Northern Nevada region.
“You have 46 (on-site) jobs, 150 construction jobs, other indirect impacts in the ag industry, more cows in the area, more people to take care of those and more feed for the cows,” he said. “It’s not the answer to everybody’s woes, but a good piece to the puzzle.
“I’m glad that they’re here, glad to hear they have the ability to expand if things go well … this is a feather in the cap for Churchill County and Western Nevada.”