The deal to lure a massive new milling venture to settle in Colorado just got sweeter.

State officials have given initial approval to money meant to lure Ardent Mills, which combines the flour milling operations of food giant ConAgra and Horizon Milling, a partnership of Cargill and agricultural cooperative CHS, to Denver.

The company announced last year they’d be moving to Colorado once the merger was given a blessing from the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. Even though the merger is still just a proposal, Ardent Mills has been the subject of criticism from both farmer and consumer groups, who say the company will hold unfair market share, limiting competition and giving it the ability to raise prices for consumers and lower them for farmers. The company, if it were to start up tomorrow, would control roughly a third of the country’s flour milling market.

States like Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska make up the country’s “wheat belt,” where farmers grow about a third of the nation’s wheat acres, another reason Ardent Mills chose Colorado for its headquarters. Farmers in those states, and industrial-scale bakeries throughout the country, stand to be among those most affected by the proposed merger.

The Colorado Economic Development Commission approved two deals for Ardent Mills. One delivers about $6 million in tax credits. The other provides a one-time payment of upwards of $1 million from a state incentive fund. The company can only choose one.

The decision to pass both deals was spurred on by the commission’s desire to speed along the process of getting Ardent Mills into Denver, according to the Denver Business Journal.

Late last year, would-be Ardent Mills CEO Dan Dye said Colorado made the most sense for the company’s new home. Colorado State University and the Colorado Wheat Research Foundation are leaders in wheat innovation, breeding new, highly profitable varieties.

“The Denver area, its central location and size, is going to continue building on our existing supplier and customer relationships,” Dye said. “That’s really very important to us.”

In December of last year Ardent Mills announced its Colorado arrival would be delayed. A federal review of the merger continues, to ferret out any potential antitrust violations inherent in the proposal.

– See more at: