Aug. 24–U.S. Congressman Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., on Wednesday paid a visit to Garden City’s Dairy Farmers of America Meadowlark Dairy plant, which he described as a “technologically advanced” and “impressive-modern” facility, as part of his statewide agricultural tour.
“I wanted to stop in Garden City to see this brand new facility, the jobs it’s creating and its connection it’s making with dairy farmers here in western Kansas,” Yoder said, following his tour. “This is a long time coming. We’ve been talking about this dairy facility for a number of years, and I’m glad to finally see it come to fruition.”
Yoder, who has represented the 3rd District since 2011, is a fifth generation Kansan who grew up on a grain and livestock farm near Yoder. Prior to that, he was the the representative for the 20th district from 2003 to 2011.
“I really believe we have to be unified as a state. What happens in Garden City will affect what happens in Kansas City,” said Yoder, of Overland Park. “So I’m traveling across the state with a message of how we focus on agriculture as a cornerstone of not only the Kansas Economy, but of the American economy.”
Work began in late 2015 on the $235 million DFA Meadowlark Dairy plant, a 321,000-square-foot facility that anticipates processing 83 truckloads of raw milk — about 4 million pounds — per day from dairy farms in southwest Kansas, turning the milk into about 85,000 tons of powdered milk annually that would fill 102 intermodal containers each week.
At capacity, the plant will be able to process 4 million pounds of milk each day, which converts into about 500,000 pounds of dry milk powder.
As part of the development agreement between Meadowlark Dairy and the city of Garden City, the city paid a lump sum payment of $2.5 million to buy treated effluent wastewater generated by the plant in its first 20 years of operation, which will offset treated municipal water being used for irrigating city parks and other non-potable uses.
Alan McEntee, DFA project manager, said Wednesday that the plant is expected to officially open next month.
“The first truck will come into the plant on Sept. 25,” he said.
McEntee said much of the plant is automated, driven by PLC’s (programmable logic controls). Computer programs are set to run certain recipes depending on the product being produced.
He added that construction is nearing completion.
“We’re basically punch lists to get the last bits and pieces at the moment,” McEntee said.
Yoder said he believes the benefits of the dairy plant are that it creates jobs, as well as a proximate location for local dairy farmers to bring their milk. He said the dairy plant also connects the western side of the state with the eastern side.
“One of the most interesting things I heard on the tour is that they ship the dried milk, the final product, through the BNSF interchange in my district, so the milk that’s being produced here ultimately ends up in my community and creates shipping jobs, rail jobs and truck jobs, so we’re all interconnected,” Yoder said. “I’m excited that it’s here in Garden City because of what it means to this community, the region and dairy farmers here. But it’s also exciting for me that what’s produced here has a connection to my community.”
McEntee said the DFA is appreciative of Yoder’s visit.
“Garden City is a long place from Washington and a long way from Topeka,” he said. “We’re glad that people are showing an interest in what were are doing here.”
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