Brownsville, TX — Since beginning operations in 1965, the use of the Port of Brownsville’s grain elevator was in high demand. Millions of tons of grains like sorghum, corn, seed meal and oats were shipped from the port all over the world.
In a deal that seeks to recapture those glory years, West Plains LLC signed an agreement with the Brownsville Navigation District to modernize and reactivate the grain elevator in support of grain farmers throughout South Texas.
During its meeting Wednesday, May 4, the BND Board unanimously approved the lease, pumping new life into one of the port’s most iconic buildings.
“Farming is part of the DNA of the people of the Rio Grande Valley and many of its residents remember when the port used to move millions of tons of sorghum, corn, and other grain commodities,” stated BND Chairman Ralph Cowen. “We worked really hard to make this project become a reality and I am very pleased to have had the full support of the board as well as the support from the port’s staff who worked diligently to achieve this objective.
“We need to make full use of all of the port’s assets and the grain elevator is one of them. This agreement will be of tremendous benefit to local farmers who will now be able to move their crops via our port and ship it to the rest of the world,” added Cowen.
The lease is structured in three phases, with the primary lease term of 10 years and two 15-year renewal options. The agreement also allows the option to purchase the grain elevator as long as the company fulfills certain requirements within the agreement, including job creation thresholds.
Paul Johnson, director of operations for West Plains, said his company is excited to bring the grain elevator back to business.
“We’re very pleased to be a part of the Brownsville community and the Port of Brownsville,” he said. “The grain elevator is kind of a landmark here at the port, it’s one of the first things you see when you fly into town so we’re very excited to bring it back into production.”
West Plains owns and operates 24 grain elevators across four states: Nebraska, South Dakota, Colorado, and Wyoming. The grain elevator at the Port of Brownsville will be their first facility in Texas.
Johnson said the company looks to bring new markets to local growers, for crops like sorghum and corn. It plans to take full advantage of the port’s strategic location, with direct access to Mexico and other international markets via ocean-going vessels.
“It will take a big undertaking to rehabilitate the facility. There’s a lot of work to be done, but we have a goal set to be able to accept grains this year,” Johnson added.