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Harkin vows to lobby for ag park grant

Senator visits site, calls its potential ‘exciting’

May 19, 2012
By BILL SHEA, Messenger staff writer , Messenger News

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin said Saturday that he will work to help Fort Dodge and Webster County obtain a $7.5 million grant to help expand rail service in the North Central Ag Industrial Park.

The Democratic senator, accompanied by local officials, visited the site of the future CJ Bio America plant Saturday. He said the entire complex, which includes the Cargill corn milling plant and the Valero Renewables ethanol plant, offers ''exciting'' potential for the region.

''That's a spectacular sight,'' he said of the Cargill plant.

Article Photos

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, listens as Dennis Plautz, chief executive officer of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance, talks about the new CJ Bio America building project while they visit the site west of Fort Dodge on Saturday afternoon. Fort Dodge Mayor Matt Bemrich, far left, and Webster County Supervisor Keith Dencklau, far right, listen.

Harkin said he hadn't been at the Ag Industrial Park since before Tate & Lyle started building what is now the Cargill facility.

The park west of Fort Dodge sits at the juncture of two railroads, the Canadian National and the Union Pacific. Webster County Supervisor Keith Dencklau told Harkin that the junction ''sets us apart from anyone else.''

A $7.5 million federal grant is being sought to extend the benefits of that rail junction to the west side of the ag park property. That money would pay for new tracks running east and west just south of the Cargill plant. Those tracks would join anything on the west side of the complex to the Canadian National and Union Pacific lines.

Fort Dodge Mayor Matt Bemrich said the federal grant would equal 1.3 percent of total ag park project costs. He said the city and county governments are investing $80 million in water mains, sewers and roads.

The local officials showed Harkin approximately where the new tracks would be, and gave him maps and statistics. Harkin said he will lobby U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on behalf of the local community.

''I'm putting in my own personal call to LaHood to tell him how important this is,'' he said.

In addition to Bemrich and Dencklau, Harkin was accompanied by Dennis Plautz, the chief executive officer of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance; City Manager David Fierke; and Derick Anderson, the local manager of McClure Engineering Co.

While in Webster County, Harkin also commented on the farm bill now before the Senate. He described it as a good bill. He said it would provide continued support for renewable energy and conservation, plus ''very strong support for crop insurance.''

He said the bill would end direct payments to farmers and added that he's thankful for that change.

Contact Bill Shea at (515) 573-2141 or



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