Port receives $3.6 million to extend tracks to plant

The Port of Pasco has secured $3.6 million to extend railroad tracks to the future Darigold Inc. processing plant now under construction at Reimann Industrial Park near Highway 395.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, both Washington Democrats, sponsored the port’s request for funds with support from U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside. It was included in the 2023 federal appropriations bill approved by Congress on Dec. 22, 2022.

The money will pay for construction of 6,100 feet of industrial rail (5,280 feet equals a mile) linking the industrial park to the BNSF rail yard in Pasco, the so-called “Last Mile Rail Project.”

Seattle-based Darigold broke ground on a $600-plus million processing plant in September 2022 after years of negotiations with the port led it to select Pasco for its newest state-of–art plant. The plant will be the largest of its kind in North America and will employ 200 or more when it opens in 2024.

The rail extension will support future tenants of Reimann Industrial Center, as well as Darigold.

The port sold 150 acres, or half of the Reimann park, to Darigold in a $3.3 million deal after negotiating for more than a year under the name “Project Ruby.”

Franklin County, the city of Pasco and the Tri-City Development Council (TRIDEC) supported the effort, which included a commitment to invest $30 million building new roads, utilities, rail and other infrastructure.

The port previously received a $7.5 million capital budget award from the Washington State Legislature and $2.3 million from Franklin County’s economic development fund. It also is using the state’s new Tax Increment Financial law to issue general obligation bonds to cover about $9 million of infrastructure costs.

“Darigold is the single largest project to locate at a Port of Pasco industrial center. Winning this project wouldn’t have been possible without the support and infrastructure investments made by the city of Pasco, Franklin County, Franklin PUD, several state legislators and now our congressional delegation,” said Randy Hayden, the port’s executive director.

The remaining property is available for sale.

At the time it broke ground, Darigold said the 400,000-square-foot plant will support its goal to become a top-tier global dairy producer. Citing U.S. Department of Agriculture data, it said domestic demand for dairy grew at 1.6% in 2021 while demand for dairy exports rose by 19%.

The Darigold plant will process 8 million of pounds of milk per day through two specialized milk dryers and two packaging lines for powdered milk products, two butter churns, two bulk butter packaging lines for commercial and institutional customers and five packaging lines for consumer products.

It will source milk from more than 100 local dairy farms.

When operational, it will have the capacity to produce 175 million pounds of butter per year and nearly 280 million pounds of powdered milk products. It said it will produce milk products that meet industry specifications for use in the most sensitive applications, such as infant formula.

The newly funded rail extension was a key to securing Darigold in Pasco’s ever-growing roster of major food processors.

Darigold said Pasco’s proximity to rail lines and global shipping ports will help it move products to both domestic and global destinations.

“Dairy farmers in the Pacific Northwest have a unique opportunity to benefit from global demand for dairy, which is rising considerably faster than it is domestically. This region is ideally suited to producing high-quality, nutritious dairy and our proximity to global shipping infrastructure makes it more efficient to access international markets,” said Allan Huttema, chairman of Darigold’s board of directors and operator of Almar Dairy in Parma, Idaho, said at the time of the groundbreaking.

The plant will employ state-of-the-art processing equipment that could mitigate more than 300,000 metric tons of carbon emissions, it said.

The Port of Pasco is the developer for the project. E.A. Bonelli & Associates is the architect. Miron Construction is the builder.

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