Delta Egg Farm LLC will start building a $20 million egg production and marketing facility in Millard County within 60 days.

The company - a joint venture of Cal-Maine Foods Inc. of Mississippi, Sunbest Foods of Iowa Inc. and Olson Farms Inc. of California - hopes to start egg production in the first half of 1999, according to a Cal-Maine press release.Completion of the project, which will bring 1.5 million hens to an area near Delta, will require about 24 months.

Millard County Commission Chairman John Henrie said the county will oil part of a road to help get the project going, but it has not offered any other incentives.

"We're trying to do all we can to accommodate them coming in," he said Tuesday. "We haven't given them any breaks, we just have a great location."

That location, about 15 miles northwest of Delta, will be home to 10 chicken houses, each about 75 feet wide by 560 feet long. The consortium will start the project by building houses for pullets, or young chickens. Pullets are nurtured in separate houses for 16 to 18 weeks, then moved into the laying complexes.

The entire operation will employ 40 to 50 people to start and offer wages of $6.50 per hour plus benefits.

Henrie said the employment levels eventually could rise to 100 or more, and only a few people have said they do not like the prospect of hosting the egg farm.

"If you have jobs that pay insurance in a farm community, that's worth a lot," he said. "It will be wonderful for the county. . . . We're excited to get it."

Fred Adams Jr., chairman and chief executive of Cal-Maine, said Monday that the project should work well because it is ideally located between Midwestern grain producing areas and Western egg markets.

"Feed is a big part of the cost for producing eggs, and most of the feed grain will come from the Midwest, unless we can entice some of the local farmers there in Utah to grow some corn," he said.

Adams said the farm site is far away from any large metropolitan areas yet close enough to serve customers in California, the intermountain region and the Pacific Northwest overnight. It also is near farms that will be able to use manure from the poultry operation as fertilizer.

"As we get further along, we're going to have a state-of-the-art operation that should be very efficient," he said. "All of the buildings will be climate controlled, and it should be a good working environment for our employees."

Adams said Cal-Maine is a relative newcomer to the project, which originally was set to include Sunbest, Olson and Continental Grain Co. of New York.

"We are a new entry into this partnership," Adams said. "I did not know the Continental people, but I do know the Olson people and the Sunbest group. They invited us in a couple months ago. After doing our due diligence, we determined it should be a good project."

Henrie said he was not sure what led to the change in partners.

"It was just a business decision that Continental backed out of it," he said. "Apparently this other company wanted to do it for some time."

Adams said each of the partners will own one-third of Delta Egg Farm LLC.