Major Explosion At Major Food Processing Plant

A massive explosion and fire at the Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM) processing facility in Decatur, Illinois late on Sunday has sent employees to the hospital for treatment and inflicted potentially major damage to crop processing operations.

The Decatur Fire Department issued a statement on Monday saying that 8 workers were injured in the blast, and 6 of them had to be hospitalized via ambulance. ADM reported that five of those workers remained hospitalized on Monday morning.

The explosion and fire caused severe damage to several structures, including a 10-story building and adjacent buildings. ADM has confirmed that a soybean-crushing facility and a corn-processing plant are both “temporarily down until [the company] can safely resume operations.”

The Decatur site is ADM’s North American headquarters and its largest facility globally. It has the capacity to produce 375 million gallons (1.42 billion liters) of ethanol biofuel annually, making it the largest such facility in the country. An extended outage at this plant could have seriously damaging effects on crop prices, especially for corn, just as Midwest farmers are preparing to harvest their corn and soybeans.

Spot basis bids for corn at ADM’s Decatur location tumbled by 35 cents a bushel from late bids on Friday while soybean bids were flat, as buyers await newly harvested grain. Mike Zuzolo, president of Global Commodity Analytics, noted that “coming into harvest, if [the facility] is down for a week or more, that would really cripple the cash basis.”

ADM says it is currently evaluating the extent of the damage and investigating the cause of the incident. The company stated that it is “working to ensure the safety of our employees and the community and continuing to provide updates as they become available.” The Decatur Fire Department similarly noted that “the fire department will remain on scene through the evening ensuring the incident is completely extinguished and no further damage occurs from the fire.”

The cause of the explosion and fire is still unknown, but ADM and local authorities are striving to ensure the safety of those affected and mitigate any further damage. With the harvest approaching and an extended shutdown at this major crop-processing facility looming, farmers may soon face their own kinds of struggles.

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