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Corsica co-op fertilizer facility gets big boost

The new Farmers Alliance co-op fertilizer facility in Corsica, pictured here on Monday, is close to being finished. The facility should be operational later this week. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic)1 / 4
A mound of urea fertilizer is piled inside the new CHS fertilizer facility in Corsica Monday morning. The facility is in the last phase of construction and should be operational later this week. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic)2 / 4
Dane Gillen, manager of CHS in Corsica, poses inside the new fertilizer facility Monday morning. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic)3 / 4
Pictured is the upper level conveyor belt at the CHS fertilizer facility in Corsica Monday morning. The facility should be operational later this week. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic)4 / 4

CORSICA -- The new fertilizer facility will bring the Farmers Alliance location in Corsica up to speed, in more ways than one.

The new facility, which cost more than $3 million, will be completed and running at full speed by Wednesday or Thursday, according to Dane Gillen, who serves as the manager of the Corsica location. On Monday, crews were installing the last of the equipment needed in the building's control room.

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The speed at which fertilizer will be moved has been updated. In the past, the 1960s-era equipment Farmers Alliance had in place could fill a semi in the span of 40 minutes. Starting this week, that same job will be done in just 10 minutes in the 130-foot by 180-foot building that sits beside U.S. Highway 281 in the middle of town.

Gillen said that's just the price of keeping up with the industry.

"In the past, you might have had someone go out to spread 80 acres and you wouldn't see them for three days because you had to work the fields twice and all that," he said. "Now you might be doing 350 to 400 acres per day."

Standing in front of huge piles of fertilizer, Gillen said the plant will have a much larger storage capacity and will be able to store more than 8,000 tons of dry fertilizer at one time. That will cut down on the frequency of trucks stopping in Corsica to drop off fertilizer.

Perhaps that's good timing. Fertilizer providers have had to battle coal and oil trains for space on the rail lines throughout the Plains, and a shortage of trains has left some farmers anxiously awaiting their fertilizer supply as planting season draws closer.

Work on the building started in October, after the old fertilizer building was torn down. Some of the winter weather slowed things down, but Gillen said he's eager to get things moving. Farmers want more mixtures and specialization to their fertilizers, to tailor their production from field to field.

"It should make a big difference," he said. "We're just going to be able to be so much more efficient."

One side of the building has a bulk bays that carry up to eight different kinds of fertilizer. An employee in a skid loader will dump the fertilizer into the grate in the floor which will carry fertilizer up to the 150-foot tall blending tower, which can hold 150 tons of fertilizer and mix specific batches to fit what producers request. Truck drivers are able to drive underneath the tower and its spout for easy unloading. All of the equipment is automated and watched by an employee in the crow's nest-like control room.

"There's a lot more split applications for farmers and more of a focus on those micronutrients," Gillen said. "Everybody is looking for that 5 to 6 bushel difference in their fields."

After finishing off a new grain facility in 2012 across the road, Gillen is done with upgrades at the Corsica location. At least for now.

"You're always trying to stay ahead," he said. "There's always something."