To the editor,
Let me introduce myself. My name is Klaren Koompin and I have been a resident of American Falls in Power County since 1959. My brother Ken and I farm with our wives, Kathy and Cheryl, and children, Amanda (husband Eric), Kamren (wife Brianna), Kael and Pete. We own and operate several entities; Koompin Farms, Koompin Ag, Koompin Bros. LLC, KBC Farms LLC and KBCP Farms LLC.
Koompin Farms has been raising potatoes in Power County since 1983. We raise 3400 acres of potatoes each year and on any given year 40-45% of our potato production is contracted with Con Agra/Lamb Weston, and has since 1985.
Over the last 40 years we have had the opportunity to purchase land on the north and south sides of the Snake River. One such piece is located adjacent to the Magnida building site to the south across the Snake River. We recently developed a subdivision there along the river called, Snake River on the Falls. Just northeast of the Magnida building site is another extremely productive piece of ground that we currently farm. What I would like to point out to the Con Agra company is that the Koompin’s have a lot of skin in this game that is impacted with the Magnida plant and its production of fertilizer, just like Con Agra.
Six years ago, the proposal was for a coal gasification plant at this same location and at the time all air quality permits were issued with all concerns brought forth. Those that showed concern were the Sierra Club and the Idaho Conservation League. Southeast Idaho Energy met with the concerned parties and all air quality issues were put to rest. An air quality permit was issued for the coal gasification and nitrogen production plant and construction was okayed to begin. Not one issue concerning air quality was brought forth by Con Agra at that time…not one! So the question is, why now? This new plant uses a more environmentally cleaner process, natural gas, not coal, so why has Con Agra suddenly decided to raise concerns with the IDEQ about the air quality permit?
Koompin Farms and our family’s homes are in close proximity to the plants building site, which is why we have been watching closely as this has progressed over the past few years as S.E. Idaho Energy transformed into the Magnida proposal. Knowing full well the potential impact this could have on our business assets as well as our potato production and sales.
In the last nine months we have especially been impressed with how Magnida has done everything possible to mitigate concerns over the environmental impact, going above and beyond what is required by the IDEQ and EPA, as well as other defenders of the environment, like the Idaho Conservation League. Not one other party, including ourselves has taken issue with Magnida’s air quality permit. But now in a “Johnny come lately” protest from the Con Agra company, the potential for a tremendous boost to the economy of Power County, southeast Idaho and all of Idaho has now been put on hold because Con Agra does not like the location. I again remind you it has passed muster with everyone for the last six years of research being done.
I realize that the folks at Con Agra, making the protest, are corporate strong holds of the company and do not live here in Power County and are probably not in Idaho but in Pasco, Washington and Omaha, Nebraska. But I will tell you as a local resident with much skin in the game, the recent action by Con Agra was like a slap in the face to all the citizens of American Falls and surrounding areas. A huge amount of time, effort and money has been spent by the residents of Power County, Idaho and Magnida to get a world class, reputable facility brought to our area. The U.S. currently imports over 50% of its nitrogen needs from out of the country for agriculture, especially potato production which requires over 300 lbs of nitrogen per acre to produce the very potatoes used by Con Agra/Lamb Weston. This is a facility that would manufacture a needed product.
Con Agra/Lamb Weston is a good corporate neighbor, but now they are throwing out some “what ifs” and tying up the permit process in court and this really upsets me and our farm partners.
It is my hope that Magnida, without moving their proposed building site, can sit down with Con Agra and put their concerns to bed. Whoever it is at Con Agra and Magnida that have the authority to come to an agreement, please do so. Do not keep Power County’s economic hopes tied up in court so long that this project dies or moves elsewhere to build
Like I said, ConAgra/Lamb Weston has been a good corporate neighbor, part of our community for 54 years hopefully our family can celebrate in 50 years 104 years with ConAgra/Lamb Weston and 50 years with Magnida. I ask you to help us give Magnida the same chance we gave Gibb Lamb to locate his facility here in American Falls 54 years ago. I believe S.E. Idaho deserves that from you.
Please, let’s look at the facts…no “what ifs”. Let’s prosper into the future together.
This is only the second time in 62 years I have written a letter to the editor. The first time was in the mid 80’s when I was newly elected to the local school board. They had tried unsuccessfully to pass a bond election two years in a row, but it had failed due to lack of trust between school administrators and patrons. The board dedicated itself to work on building that trust back and on the 3rd attempt the bond passed. Just before the vote was when I wrote the letter to the editor in support of the bond. Let’s hope this letter has the same outcome.
Thank you for your time,
Klaren Koompin/Koompin Farms