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2-plants: Soybean segregation is possible (2)

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April 17, 1998 - Coles County, Illinois

Soybean processors find local niche

Company plans to process non-genetically modified soybeans in former 
popcorn factory

By Carl Walworth Staff Writer

MATTOON - The timing for this business opening is a little awkward, Jim 
Skiff conceded. But Skiff and Cornbelt Foods, Inc. officials are excited 
about the opportunities in a new venture they are locating in the former 
popcorn factory off Illinois Route 16. Skiff is president of the firm 
that plans to process non-genetically modified soybeans for food 
processing around the world. The timing is off, he said, because normally 
by this time of year the company would have all its contracts in place 
with the growers. Skiff said response of area farmers has been good, 
adding that any problems are related to the company being in its 
formative stage and not having enough information for growers. "There's a 
lot of interest but we're on a very tight time frame to do something this 
year," Skiff said. Nonetheless, Skiff said Cornbelt's Coles County 
operation begins as demand for its product grows around the world.

Area officials rolled out the welcome mat for Skiff and other company 
officials Thursday. The agenda included a look at the facility and 
signing papers on the real estate transaction. Cornbelt, through a 
Minnesota firm called Shared Ventures Inc., is purchasing 28 acres from 
Eastern Illinois Industries Inc. that includes all of the buildings and 
bins at the former popcorn plant. Eastern Illinois Industries still has 
34 acres for commercial development, including the ground in front of the 
plant along Route 16. Mattoon businessmen Mike Boyd and Bill Whitworth 
are two of the principals in EI Industries. Coles Together President Bob 
Luther, state Sen. Judy Myers, R-Danville, Mattoon Mayor Wanda Ferguson 
and chamber executive director Val Mullens were among those present at 
the event. U.S. Rep. Glenn Poshard was represented by Shane Rogers of his 
Coles County office.

Skiff said the facility is ideal and the process will be similar to the 
popcorn operation. He said there's not another non-GMO plant of this size 
anywhere in the country, and the market for the "niche" product is 
growing, particularly in Europe. The 114 bins provide more than 1 million 
bushels of potential storage, including 100 bins that are connected. Some 
other countries require that food made with genetically-modified soybeans 
be labeled, and Austria banned all such products, Skiff said. Existing 
plants can't guarantee 100 percent non-genetically modified soybeans 
because of contamination from the mixture they handle.

All the local officials noted the importance of agriculture to the area 
economy, and said this sort of business is an ideal fit. Skiff said the 
company also likes the location. "We feel this is an excellent facility 
in a perfect location." The facility is in the middle of soybean growers 
and just 45 miles from the University of Illinois and its international 
soybean program. The company's engineer lives in Seymour. Skiff said he 
doesn't know how many employees it will take to operate the plant. Vogel 
operated with 18 employees.

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