LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. - Weary of exorbitant trucking costs, Wenger's Feed Mill Inc. last year decided to end shipments from the Midwest of a vital soybean ingredient that is added to its premium meal.
Wenger's instead opened its own expelled soybean plant at 271 Heisey Quarry Road in Rheems last April, a move that cut shipping costs and provided the bonus of a soybean oil byproduct that is processed into biodiesel.
"It's interesting that some of the soy oil produced at the plant could come back into the trucks that we haul feed with — our trucks use a soy biodiesel B5 blend," Cher M. Rineer, Wenger's spokeswoman, said.
Wenger's, a major supplier of poultry and swine feed to the mid-Atlantic states, got the attention of Gov. Ed. Rendell's Energy Independence Strategy, which is designed to cut reliance on imported liquid fuels.
State Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty and Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff toured the plant Monday. McGinty said the plant is an example of how farmers and agribusinesses can turn challenges into economic opportunities.
"By making strategic investments today, we can provide farmers and agribusinesses with the tools to produce fuels in the state, attract new business growth and create exciting employment opportunities," McGinty said.
Rineer said the plant also provides an opportunity to local farmers who compete to sell the soybeans they produce.
"Pennsylvania is a soybean-surplus state. The Wenger's plant offers farmers another market for their product," she said.
Expelled soybean is made from crushing soybeans and extracting their oil. The oil is refined to remove gum and sold for food processing or biodiesel.
Rineer said some soy oil goes to food-grade processing but the majority of the nearly 20,000 gallons of soy oil produced each week is sold to biodiesel producers such as Keystone BioFuel Inc. in Shiremanstown.
"Wenger's is one of the many agricultural and manufacturing firms that are poised to capitalize on the challenges our appetite for energy presents," Wolff.
The Rendell administration has regularly highlighted agribusinesses that complement its PennSecurity Fuels Initiative, which calls for Pennsylvania to produce and consume 1 billion gallons of biofuels and ethanol annually by 2017.
The Energy Independence Strategy will invest $850 million to significantly expand Pennsylvania's alternative-fuel and clean-energy industries. The initiative will mandate that all gasoline sold in Pennsylvania includes 10 percent ethanol once production reaches 200 million gallons per year.