The Fallon business community recently learned the new Dairy Farmers of America dry milk plant should be operational in either March or April.
Al Trace, a Douglas County resident who is director of member services for the DFA, gave an update on the facility to members and guests at a breakfast hosted by the Churchill Economic Development Authority.
Although the opening date has been pushed back into the first quarter of 2014, Trace said much work is currently ongoing at the dry milk plant located southeast of Fallon.
“We have an incredible number of moving parts,” Trace said, adding that 220 people including 30 vendors are working at the site.
Trace said the DFA’s 89,822-square foot plant sits on 32 acres. Eight silos, which were constructed in Fernley and transported to Fallon, will hold milk and process water.
“We’ll have state of the art separation,” he added.
Once the plant begins its operation sometime in the spring, Trace said the production numbers will be huge. For example, Trace said the plants will be able to process 7.1 tons of milk per hour, 20 hours a day, and that will result in 284,000 pounds of dry milk. This ingredient manufacturing facility is being billed as the first of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.
He said the plant will provide 45 permanent jobs but indirectly create 1,800 agricultural support jobs.
“The benefits will be $5 million in new taxes over 10 years,” he said, referring to state and county statistics.
He said the state also said the plant will add $200 million to the local economy within the next decade.
Trace said the milk will be collected in close proximity to the plant and will come from DFA members.
Trace said once the milk is processed into the dry milk powder, it will be shipped to the Port of Oakland and then shipped overseas to China.
“We’re excited to be your new neighbor,” Trace said at the CEDA breakfast. “We’ll be OK when we open the first or second quarter, but we need the local milk production.”
He said the plant will have quality assurance personnel to ensure the product is of the highest caliber.
Ground breaking on the plant began during the spring of 2012. Trace said the member-owned co-op has 8,000 members across the United States including 20 within the DFA site’s of operation — 18 in Fallon and two in Smith Valley southwest of Yerington. Of the seven DFA regions, Fallon is in the West with California.
For example, he said dairy farmers in the West tend to have larger farms, and in Churchill County, Trace said local members also grow their own feed.
Trace said Nevada’s member farms produce a daily milk supply of 18 loads per day, and the average farms has 614 cows.
“DFA exists for our 8,000 dairy farmers,” Trace stressed. “We exist for our farmers, and without them, there would be no Fallon plant.”
Overall, he said many positives affect milk production in Nevada. He said the state has a good climate, good quality forages, environmentally agriculture-friendly areas, an existing infrastructure and no taxes (personal income, inheritance of inventory).
On the other hand, Trace said challenges focus on the lack of sizable dairy-suited property for sale, few facilities for lease or rent and the downturn in the dairy industry and the possibility of drought, which would result in a lack of water for processing.
Trace said the Fallon plant will need 28 extra loads or 220 million pounds of milk to be fully operational. Recent developments, though, have caused him to be optmistic. Trace said a new 3,000-cow, 2,200-acre facilty has been built in Smith Valley and an empty 1,5000-cow dairy farm northeast of Fallon was recently purchased.
While the dry milk for Fallon is destined for the Far East, Trace said other DFA plants manufacture milk products for a wide variety of outlets to include Kroger, Walmart, Costco and Chobani Greek Yogurt.
Trace also mentioned the national trends affecting dairy farms. He said in 1992, 130,000 farms existed in the U.S. but 20 years later, only 59,000 dairy farms remain.
“They’re fewer and larger,” Trace added.