PASCO, Wash. — Darigold announced today that it plans to build a $450 million dairy processing plant in Pasco, Wash.
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The Darigold plant in Sunnyside, Wash. The cooperative has announced plans to build a plant in Pasco, Wash. Capital Press File

The plant will produce a new specialized protein powder and butter at what the company and Port of Pasco officials are touting as “the most sophisticated large-scale milk protein facility in North America.”

“It’s great news for ag and all of Washington State, keeping a processing plant of this size and scope,” Randy Hayden, executive director of the port, told the Capital Press. “(It) will support not just the manufacturing jobs at the plant – all of the jobs at the farms and transportation industry. It’s great to have these facilities here supporting our farmers.”

“It’s a deeper commitment from the state’s largest co-op to dairy in Washington State,” said Dan Wood, executive director of the Washington State Dairy Federation. “A couple hundred direct jobs, another thousand support jobs, which is major economic development. It just underscores how important dairy is to the state economy.”

The federation wasn’t involved in the process, Wood said. The organization knew a plant would be located somewhere in central or southeast Washington, but learned the location at the same time as the public.

Port commissioners approved the sale of roughly 150 acres of the Reimann Industrial Center to Darigold during a special commission meeting July 1.

Darigold intends to bring the new facility online in the fall of 2023, according to a port press release.

Darigold expects to process up to 8 million pounds of milk per day in the new facility, said Tafline Laylin, leader of sustainability communications and social engagement for the company. The operation will produce specialized products that can’t be made in any of the company’s other plants.

More than 50% of the facility’s finished product is intended for export, with an emphasis on the Pacific Rim.

Darigold will deploy anaerobic digestion technology as part of the on-site wastewater treatment strategy and use the extracted methane as a natural gas substitute, reducing fossil fuel use, according to a company press release. This will be complemented by machinery that enables heat and energy recovery and reuse.

In addition, the new infrastructure is designed to accommodate future electric vehicles, including a potential conversion of Dairgold’s large fleet of semi-trucks — further reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with transportation, the company says.

“As commissioners, we’re excited by Darigold’s decision to locate at the Reimann. As Darigold invests approximately $500 million, this is the largest private industrial development to ever occur at the Port of Pasco,” commission president Jim Klindworth said in the press release. “The new jobs at the plant and the new jobs at dairy farms create extraordinary opportunities for Franklin County residents.”

Darigold has been working with the port since last fall as part of its extensive Pacific Northwest search for the right location for its new facility. Darigold officials predict the capital investment will be between $450 million and $500 million.

“The new specialized protein and butter operation in the Port of Pasco’s Reimann Industrial Center facility is expected to accelerate our farmer-owned cooperative’s goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050, cementing a longstanding tradition of continuous stewardship and sustainability improvements,” said Stan Ryan, president and CEO of Darigold, in the press release.

The new facility will also create approximately 200 new “high-quality” jobs onsite and over 1,000 jobs in the supporting services and supply chain, he said.

A closing date on the land sale is contingent on the port and its state and local partners meeting several time-sensitive deadlines. The primary tasks involve construction of infrastructure that will serve the Reimann and Darigold.

“Our local and state partners creatively rolled up their sleeves to launch a plan that makes it possible to deliver critical infrastructure to the Reimann to serve the Darigold project,” Hayden said in the port’s press release. “We’re especially grateful for the Washington State Legislature’s support of $7.5 million to cover part of the costs for water, wastewater, roads and rail improvements. The City of Pasco, Franklin County, Franklin PUD and TRIDEC are also making key investments.”

The Port of Pasco and Darigold expect to close on the land sale in 120 to 180 days. The extended due diligence phase provides time to confirm that the state’s new and future climate legislation will not impact the project, according to the release.

A reduction in greenhouse gas emissions associated with transportation combined with a suite of cutting-edge efficiency technologies are expected to offset per unit emissions by up to 25%, Ryan said in the press release.

The Northwest Dairy Association is a cooperative owned by nearly 500 dairy farmers in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. Its products are marketed under the Darigold trade name.

Hayden, with the port of Pasco, gave credit to the Washington farming industry.

“We would not be in a position to welcome a plant like this without all of the hard work and commitment our farmers do to earn a living in Washington and produce all of the milk and other products we all need to go about our lives,” he said.

Nominations are open for Fonterra’s board election but a repeat of the drama that rocked the vote three years ago can be ruled out.

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