Tri-Cities Grain plans $2.8M expansion to accomodate growing demand

A seemingly endless line of trucks -- each hauling 30 tons of wheat -- recently unloaded their amber harvest at the largest grain storage company in the Tri-Cities.

Halfway through wheat harvest, Tri-Cities Grain in Pasco sees as many as 30 trucks a day, said manager Damon Filan.

The wheat piles up in temporary ground pits, forming pyramids of golden grain, before the company loads the grain onto barges headed for Asia.

Next to the pyramids, workers are constructing an aluminum bin, part of a $2.8 million expansion project to keep up with increased demand for grain, Filan said.

The 90-foot-tall bin will increase the company's long-term storage capacity by 40 percent -- 200,000 bushels of grain. Workers will begin metalwork on the bin this week, he said.

The project also includes the addition of a silo for drying corn and a station where trucks unload grain.

The company has made upgrades like this one before, but this year is special.

"We're putting up a fast and efficient operation to handle the increase in demand for grain," Filan said.

The combination of a growing corn-ethanol industry and drought in the Midwest region has driven up the demand for grain coming from farmers in the Northwest, he said.

"The demand is so high, there may not be enough corn to get us to next year's harvest," he said.

Since June, the price of corn has increased from $6 to $8 per bushel, he said.

Unlike wheat, most of the corn that passes through Tri-Cities Grain goes to domestic ranchers as cattle and poultry feed.

The construction, which began in May, puts Tri-Cities Grain on track for using its new corn dryer and storage bin in October, the start of the corn harvest season, he said.

Tri-Cities Grain has seven full-time employees and just as many seasonal workers. Filan expects to hire more seasonal workers as a result of the new storage bin.

The company, a partnership between Tidewater Barge Lines, Northwest Grain Growers and Central Washington Grain Growers, contracts with 500 growers in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana and North Dakota.

-- Eric Francavilla: 582-1535;