A major expansion of an agriculture facility in Tuscola County is being proposed.
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Dairy Farmers of America wants to expand its operation in Cass City's industrial park, and is looking for a company to partner with to accomplish that. DFA issued a prospectus for a joint-venture milk processing opportunity in the village. (Mary Drier/For the Tribune)

“(The Dairy Farmers of America) is seeking to expand their dairy operations in our industrial park,” said Cass City Village Manager Debbie Powell. “I am very happy to share this information that DFA officials are pursuing a phase two expansion in Cass City.”

“DFA issued a prospectus for a joint-venture milk processing opportunity in the village,” Powell said.

However, the proposal is in the very early stages of development.

DFA’s announcement is to lay the groundwork to explore the possibility of a joint venture of a milk processing opportunity in the village, and to get the word out to prospective companies that might be interested in a partnership.

“Cass City always knew there was the potential for expansion of the DFA plant in our industrial park, but now that DFA has released their plans to seek a partner for a joint venture, we are very excited about the proposed development,” said Powell. “I look forward to working with DFA on phase two of their dairy processing plans.”

The prospectus is basically a fishing expedition looking for a company to partner with.

“The prospectus is seeking to have a joint partner in a new venture,” Powell explained. “The plan will be determined after a new partnership is formed.”

“It is not truly an (expansion) announcement,” she said. “The prospectus provides information to potential investors concerning this opportunity.”

So what exactly the joint venture will be depends who responds to the proposal. It could be a domestic or it could be an international company.

In 2010, members of the dairy cooperative started looking at processing options to meet the growing milk supply and demand in the Thumb region. At that time, it was determined Cass City’s industrial park was the prime location for the new condensing facility.

In 2015, DFA built a $40 million, 43,900-square-foot milk plant at 4105 N. Division St., in the village’s 48-acre industrial park, which left plenty of room for expansion.

At the time that facility was built, DFA was already considering a second expansion, and the site is perfect for development because of the space that is available and has its own stand-alone waste-water treatment plant.

That facility was built with plenty of support. The Michigan Strategic Fund provided a $500,000 Michigan Business Development Program grant and a $1 million Community Development Block Grant, while the Michigan Economic Development Corporation contributed $300,000 in corporate funds.

Plus, at that time, MSF also awarded the village an Agriculture Processing Renaissance Zone designation for the project. That designation provides for multiple tax breaks with the company only having to pay Unemployment Insurance, Social Security taxes, workers compensation, Michigan Sales Tax, sewer/water fees, special assessments, and voted debt millage until 2028.

DFA is the largest dairy cooperative in the nation with more than 14,000 farmer-members with 6,000 employees at dozens of manufacturing facilities across the country that process milk along with a variety of other dairy products such as yogurt, cheese, butter and ice cream.

DFA’s 239 farmer/members in Michigan produced an estimated combined 3.54 billion pounds of milk in 2020, of which about 43 percent was in the Thumb.

Last month, 14 of our dairy farms in Maine, as well as dozens of dairy farms across northern New England, got an unexpected and disappointing notice from Danone of North America saying that they were discontinuing their contracts with our organic dairy farmers in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and elsewhere.

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