NEW CASTLE, Pa. — Ag Central, a New Castle area feed mill, has increased conventional capacity and opened doors for the organic grain market.
A division of Hamco, Ag Central, has been serving the agricultural community since the 1970s.
Three years ago they started the process to become certified organic.
“We wanted to have options for producers for better pricing,” said Rob Hodge, who works at Ag Central, which is owned by his father, Ronald Hodge.
About two years ago, they got into the loads of paperwork it took to get the certification, which was a lengthy process, Rob said.
Around the same time, they began a million and a half dollar expansion for conventional grain. The expansion gave them the ability to dump or load a semi-truck in 30 seconds.
“We’ve made everything speedier and more efficient for farmers,” he said.
This expansion also allowed for the previous facility to house organic grain.
“Total segregation to ensure no contamination is required,” Rob said.
There is a lengthy trail of sequential events that need to happen and be documented when they deal with organic grain, he added.
Ag Central received its certification to be an organic handler and processor in mid-October. As a federally licensed warehouse, they can house any organic grain.
“It’s all imports for now, to allow the farmers time to transition,” he said, about the organic soybeans from China they are now handling.
It typically takes a farmer 21⁄2 years to transition to certified organic production.
There is a demand for the organic products — feed for the local organic dairy and poultry industries and an interest in producing the organic grains domestically, but farmers haven’t converted yet, he said.
“What we’ve seen as far as pricing is that it (organic soybeans) is triple the price, but we expect half the yields,” Rob said. “So there is money to be made.”
Ag Central has the capacity to house a half million bushels, which are now still 99.1 percent conventional.
“We’ve tried to help both ends of the spectrum, better for conventional farmers and an avenue for organic farmers.”
Ag Central is open to serving other mills that may need to move or process organic grains. They can take organic grain off the barge or rail and store it for others.
“It was a big decision to get certified. We are now juggling both sides, but not neglecting conventional farms,” he said. “They aren’t going away.”
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