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Grain unit

Dan Conable of Cato-based Preferred Quality Grain is hopeful a grain cleaning unit, like the one shown, will be assembled and an operator will have been found in the next three to four months. Organic grain products must be cleaned and dried to get rid of weed seeds. 

A Cato company is getting some federal help to launch a mobile service for cleaning and drying locally grown grains.

Preferred Quality Grain LLC will receive $79,035 worth of equipment through an approved federal grant proposal. An additional $30,974 was contributed by private support.

The Cayuga Economic Development Agency Inc was granted the federal funding for Preferred Quality Grain to use by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Business Development Grant Program. CEDA will lease the equipment to Preferred Quality Grain.

Grain drying and cleaning equipment is needed to remove weed seeds from grain products to ensure their marketability. This equipment is expected to create two jobs, the USDA said.

A deficit of grain cleaning capacity in Cato led Chuck Kyle and Dan Conable, administrators of Preferred Quality Grain LLC, to seek a solution. 

"We were looking for equipment for our own business, and then we saw an opportunity that could benefit the surrounding area," Conable said. 

Despite a lack of grain cleaning options in New York state, a demand for organic grains produced in the region has expanded significantly. That's partially because of the Farm Brewery Law signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2012. 

According to the law, which is modeled after the 1976 Farm Winery Act, at least 20 percent of all beer ingredients must be grown in New York until the end of 2018. Starting Jan. 1, 2019, that number jumps to 60 percent. 

Tracy Verrier, the executive director at the Cayuga Economic Development Agency, helped oversee the project proposal. 

"Ultimately, the [CEDA] board and I saw this as a way to support a local business in expanding their operations, which meets our mission as an organization," said Verrier. "Furthermore, the proposed project would provide a new service option to the agriculture industry, a major industry for Cayuga county."

The cleaning unit, described by Conable, will have a generator and legs. The unit will also be transported by a flatbed truck — making it easy to reach a client's site. 

Conable said the next step is to assemble the unit and find an operator. He's hopeful that services can be offered starting late winter. 

Verrier expects this project to save time and money, and will "likely be particularly helpful to small-scale, organic producers." 

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Staff writer Dan Orzechowski can be reached at (315) 282-2239 or Follow him on Twitter @OrzechowskiDan.