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Mehmet Tulbek explains the workings of the new pilot-scale durum mill to Duane Hauck on Tuesday during a tour of the Northern Crops Institute on the campus of North Dakota State University in Fargo. David Samson / The Forum

Mill able to do double duty

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Northern Crop Institute's mill now can do double duty.

The organization's pilot-scale durum mill has been converted so that it can mill the type of wheat used for bread, too.

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"It's something we identified as an obvious need," Brian Sorenson, NCI director, said at a Tuesday news conference.

Northern Crops Institute, based on the North Dakota State University campus, is a collaborative effort among the states of North Dakota, Minnesota and South Dakota, along with commodity groups in those states and Montana.

The organization supports the promotion and market development of crops grown in the four-state region.

"This really is a cool collaboration," North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven said at the news conference.

The pilot-scale mill was built in 1991 to test durum wheat, which is used in pasta.

Many private companies have used the mill to test durum wheat, according to information from Northern Crops Institute.

Recently, it became clear that there's also a need for a pilot-scale mill to produce bread wheat into flour for evaluating quality and test baking/processing, Northern Crops Institute said.

Both durum wheat and bread wheat are major crops in this region.

The renovation, which began this summer, converted the mill into a dual-purpose or swing mill, or one that can mill both durum and bread wheat.

The new mill is capable of milling flour, durum semolina and whole wheat flour.

The cost of the project wasn't released Tuesday.

The work is funded partly through gifts from several state wheat commissions and private companies.

The next phase of the project will include a flour mixer, storage bin and flour packing equipment that will fill 50-pound bags.

That work will begin when funding is secured, according to Northern Crops Institute.

Northern Crops Institute plays an important role in making the region's crops more attractive to foreign buyers, North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said.

That role - and the region's crops - will become even more valuable as foreign customers have more money to spend, he said.

"We're going to see great opportunities when we come out of this global recession," he said.

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