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Prairie Farms embarks on $8.7m plant expansion to broaden dairy production

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Mary Ellen Shoup

By Mary Ellen Shoup+

Last updated on 14-Feb-2017 at 11:50 GMT2017-02-14T11:50:34Z

Prairie Farms aims to promote the livelihood of Indiana dairy farmers by keep processing and production in the state while expanding its distribution footprint.
Prairie Farms aims to promote the livelihood of Indiana dairy farmers by keep processing and production in the state while expanding its distribution footprint.

Prairie Farms Dairy has announced that its $8.7m 22,500-square-foot expansion investment at its Fort Wayne, Indiana, facility is under way, with construction beginning in April 2017 and taking an estimated 18 months to complete.

The farmer-owned cooperative, headquartered in Carlinvillle, Illinois, produces a range of dairy products including fluid milk, ice cream mix, yogurt, cottage cheese, and dips. The expansion will better accommodate production of dairy beverages.

Continuing state-supported ‘dairy strategy’

Prairie Farms’ decision to expand the 23-year-old Fort Wayne facility was due in part to incentives offered by the state as part of its strategy focus on expanding Indiana’s current dairy processors, attracting new dairy processing facilities, and adopting policies that support and improve dairy farming operations.

The state of Indiana’s dairy strategy, commissioned by the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA), was created to grow the state’s industry by increasing the volume of dairy processing and creating market opportunities for expanded dairy production.  

Indiana’s agriculture industry contributes $31bn to the state’s economy and supports more than 100,000 jobs in the state, Indiana secretary of commerce, Jim Schellinger, said.

“We are proud that Prairie Farms is choosing to grow in Indiana, and we look forward to our continued partnership as we work to create new jobs and support Indiana farmers.”

In 2016, Indiana’s approximate 1,100 dairy farms produced more than 4bn lbs of milk, which the ISDA is working to distribute and sell in Indiana in order to help local farmers save on transportation and related costs.

"One of our top goals when we launched the dairy strategy was to add value to Indiana’s dairy products by increasing our state’s processing capacity," said Ted McKinney, director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.

"By expanding their operation, Prairie Farms’ announcement confirms our strategy is working and continues to pay off in Indiana."

Expanding distribution

The company currently employs 117 people at its Fort Wayne facility and with the expansion hopes to add more local jobs and expand its distribution footprint. Currently, Prairie Farms covers 30% of the US with its milk and dairy products.

“Along with the expansion comes a bigger distribution footprint for us. Once complete, we will ship more Prairie Farms products from coast to coast, and to Central America,” Chuck McQuaig, Fort Wayne general manager for Prairie Farms Dairy, said.

Another goal will be to expand its processing and manufacturing capabilities through multiple facility upgrades. The expansion will include several new upgrades including: a processing system, storage vessels, packaging lines, equipment to accommodate existing production, a cooler and a dry storage warehouse.

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