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Santee – Calhoun County farmer Joe Haegler has high hopes for the state’s first peanut shelling plant.

Ground was broken in November 2024 at the Premium Peanut plant in Santee.

“It will allow the farmer to take his raw product to the next level and be able to get some extra revenue from his crop,” Hegler said of the plant.

“I’ve always wanted to see that happen and it paid off in the end,” he said.

Premium Peanut is building the shelling facility at the 1,324-acre South Carolina Gateway Logistics Park in Santee on property it purchased from DP World Americas, a subsidiary of Dubai World.

Heegler, along with other local growers such as Danny Mixon, helped develop the Palmetto Peanut Buying Point in Cameron in 2005.

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“We had to have a place to sell peanuts and we built a facility to do that,” Hegler said. “I never thought a bombing plant would come and we always dreamed of it.”

Haegler believes the shelling plant will prompt more farmers to grow peanuts.

“It’s a good crop. It benefits the other crops you grow. It’s a good rotation crop,” he said.

Premium Peanut builds its own facilities. It plans to invest $27.5 million in buildings and $36.8 million in equipment in Orangeburg County over the next five years.

The company plans to create 130 new jobs in Orangeburg County.

The Santee campus will include a peanut seed processing facility and a shelling facility. There is potential for expansion in the future.

“We’re trying to make sure we’re doing it right,” said Rachel Santos, director of sales and industry relations for Premium Peanuts.

Premium Peanut President and CEO Carl Zimmer acknowledged that the project may have taken a little longer than originally anticipated.

“We are happy to be here and happy to see progress,” he said. “We’ve made some progress, but now it’s really going to accelerate. We’re going to start leveling the ground here, very quickly pouring the concrete and getting the buildings ready.”

Premium Peanut was founded in 2014. The company began shelling peanuts in 2016 with a shelling capacity of approximately 140,000 tons at its facility in Douglas, Georgia.

The company has grown to a plant capacity of 300,000 tons, which accounts for about 10% of the country’s peanut crop.

It has also operated an oil mill since 2018 in Georgia.

The company’s customers include major domestic snack, candy, and peanut butter manufacturers, as well as customers in more than 30 countries around the world.

“We’re not going to take what we have in Douglas and put it here,” Zimmer said. “We’re very focused on innovation and very focused on figuring out how we can do things that are new, better, and different.”

“That’s what we’re going to do here,” Zimmer said. “We will create a bombing plant that is not only the most modern in the world, but the most advanced and most technologically capable.”

Zimmer thanked the local community and farmers for their support.

“Our mission is really to create value for our peanut farmers,” Zimmer said.

Premium Peanut is a farmer-owned company with over 400 farm owners in Georgia and South Carolina.

More than 30,000 shares in the company have been sold to peanut farmers in South Carolina, Zimmer said.

“We work every day to create value for our farmers and these farmers are now from South Carolina and they’re very proud of that,” he said.

As part of its access to Orangeburg County, Premium Peanut received fees for 30 years in lieu of a tax incentive.

It is also placed in a multi-country industrial park with Dorchester County. The multi-country industrial park is a catalytic mechanism, not a natural park. The company will also receive tax credits for job development.

Premium Peanut Chairman Kent Fountain expressed his appreciation to South Carolina.

“You have opened your doors and made us welcome,” said Fountain. “It’s been a little longer than we’d like it to have been, but we promise we’re coming and we’re here and we’re going to do everything we can and build the best facility. It takes time.”

“We need more farmers,” Fountain said. “More contributors to make this facility as great as we can make it here in South Carolina.”

Donny Hilliard remembers Santee Mayor some 18 years ago when he was city manager and the idea of ​​an industrial park in Santee was just beginning to blossom.

City Council members at the time went on a retreat to learn about long-term planning for the future.

“They agreed that we would program, setup and market the city and here we are 18 years later,” Hilliard said. Thanks to Premium Peanut for showing that the layout works.

Hilliard said the existing council will continue to create an environment that attracts industrial prospects to the area.

Orangeburg County Council President Johnny Wright prayed thanks for this achievement and everyone who supported the effort. Wright also prayed for the future success of the company and the continuation of the relationship between the county and the company.

“We want to thank Premium Peanut for finally coming along and putting a ring on a finger and saying they’re going to marry an Orangeburg County guy,” Wright said.

“There’s a lot to do,” said Kenneth Middleton, executive director of the Orangeburg County Development Commission.

“We remember when you shared your dream with us. One man’s dream becomes the hope of others, but in the end it becomes the family’s reality,” he said.

The state has been talking about a peanut shelling station for more than a decade, but it has been talking about the importance of adding value to crops for much longer, said Hugh Withers, the SC’s commissioner of agriculture.

“This is where value will be added to South Carolina peanuts,” Withers said. “The collaborative model that Premium uses really pays dividends for our farmers.

“Co-operatives have had success in South Carolina but have had challenges. This is something I’m glad to see we can show as an example to other farmers across the state.”

Withers said South Carolina understands the importance of agriculture at all levels of government.

He said Premium Peanut will now be added to this economic metric.

“What they’re doing here will be part of the economic impact of agribusiness that we’re very pleased about, especially in rural South Carolina,” Withers said. “It is agribusiness and farming that make a difference in our rural counties like Orangeburg, Calhoun, and Clarendon.”

Growers interested in learning more should contact Premium Peanut at 912-292-0291.