West Plains LLC received its first grain of the season April 25, 2017 at the Port of Brownsville with the arrival of 109 rail cars of corn from Nebraska.
West Plains entered into an agreement with the port in 2016 to restore and operate the grain elevator, with capacity to store three million bushels of grain. Since restoration efforts began, West Plains has invested more than $5.5 million in preparation of Tuesday’s shipment, the first at the port in more than seven years. Eventually, West Plains expects to receive 220 rail cars monthly.
The corn will be stored for less than 30 days before being trucked to feed lots north of the Rio Grande Valley and parts of the Mexican states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon.
“We feel like we’re just scratching the surface,” said Amit Bhandari, chairman and CEO of the BioUrja Group, parent company of West Plains. “There’s a lot of business here.”
West Plains’ future plans include facility enhancements to achieve high-speed handling of grain through all modes of transportation, including truck, rail and vessel. On-port rail service is provided by OmniTRAX through a master franchise agreement with Brownsville Navigation District.
“We’d like to have the ship loader and unloader in about a year,” Bhandari explained. “It will be an investment of $12 to $15 million, and at that point we want to just facilitate trade.”
“The partnership between the Port of Brownsville, OmniTRAX Inc., and West Plains is another example of how the port is working to expand the economic vitality of the Rio Grande Valley,” said John Wood, Brownsville Navigation District chairman.