Elevator for everyone

Written by Allison Jenkins on .

For Farmers Elevator and Supply Co. in Clinton, Mo., “cooperative” is much more than just a way of business. It’s a way of life for the employees, members, customers and the community where this farmer-owned organization has thrived for more than 100 years.

And that cooperation begins at the top. The business is led by two co-managers: Doug Wagoner and Kaylene Kline. And they’re quick to point out that the cooperative principle of democratic control extends throughout the entire staff of 16 full-time employees.

“They’re not my employees; they’re co-employees,” Wagoner said. “They’re a vital part of this place. I don’t think of myself as the boss. I lead the employees in a direction, and then I let them do their thing. They know what needs to be done, and I give them the latitude to do it. We try to keep everybody feeling like they’re part of the place.”

That sense of belonging remains an important attribute of Farmers Elevator, which was incorporated June 2, 1917, and has been a local affiliate of the MFA system from its beginnings. The co-op is ingrained in the Clinton community, where Wagoner and his family once owned and operated a neighboring farm supply business just up the street. In the spirit of cooperation, he says the two businesses worked together rather than competed.

“The farm supply business has always been a family affair for me,” Wagoner said. “My grandpa started a feed and grain store in 1951, and my dad later took over the business. Then I went to work there in 1982. In 2004, the co-op bought us out and offered me a job as assistant manager here. I didn’t grow up on a farm and never dreamed I would have ended up in this field. But once it got in my blood, I couldn’t get rid of it. I absolutely love it.”

“Family” is the word he and Kline also use to describe the cooperative’s customer base, which includes 4,000 active members. The business serves an extremely diverse clientele, from row-crop farmers and livestock producers to pet owners and “backyard” farmers who raise chickens, pigs, horses and goats. Farmers Elevator regularly hosts customer appreciation events such as an annual golf outing, and more than 400 people turned out for the co-op’s centennial anniversary pancake breakfast on Aug. 12.

“We have customers who have been here forever, and we know them by name,” Kline said. “We also have new customers who come in to get dog food or want advice about taking care of their chickens or rabbits and things like that, and we get to know them, too. We like to treat our customers like we want to be treated, and they’re all pretty special.”

That type of personal connection is one of the reasons Farmers Elevator has prospered for more than a century, said Board President Donnie Mitchell. The cow-calf producer, who has served on the cooperative’s seven-member board of directors for 12 years, described the business as “the elevator for everyone.”

“It’s a stout co-op with excellent employees and management,” Mitchell said. “They tend to look after their patrons really well. Everyone’s treated the same, large or small. It’s a great asset for this community, and I want to see it keep growing and getting stronger.”

Indeed, Farmers Elevator has strengthened over the past decade under the leadership of Wagoner and Kline, who became co-managers in 2007. Sales have more than doubled in that period, from about $6 million to an estimated $13 million for 2017.

“I think we’ve had one year where we didn’t show a profit, and that was the first year we took over,” Wagoner said. “We’ve shown steady growth ever since. We are a cooperative, but we still have to operate to make a profit to keep the business running and improving. The difference is that we share a portion of that profit back with our members. That’s the best of both worlds.”

He attributes that growth to more attentive customer service, increased walk-in traffic and renewed focus on grain sales. The co-op is located on a short line of the Missouri and Northern Arkansas railroad, but train service from the elevator had been discontinued in the 1980s. The co-op worked with railroad officials to reinstate that service two years ago and has shipped more than 250,000 bushels of corn by rail since last fall.

“That’s really increased our bid capabilities for the farmer, and we can keep our grain local,” Wagoner said. “About 99 percent of it is going south to chicken farms down into Arkansas. With the option to ship by rail again, we have a chance to get better pricing and pass that on to our customers.”

In addition to the elevator, the main location in Clinton includes a feed mill, showroom, warehouse and bulk seed bins with on-site treating services. The store offers a wide variety of livestock feeds along with pet food, animal health products and farm supply items.

The co-op’s agronomy center, managed by Wagoner’s son, Josh, is located outside of town and offers fertilizer, crop protection products and related services such as soil-testing, spraying and variable-rate applications.

As for the future, Wagoner and Kline say they’d like to ramp up the co-op’s outside sales efforts, enlarge the elevator’s grain bin capacity and continue diversifying the co-op’s offerings in response to increased interest in backyard farming and more “in-town” business.

“We’d love to enlarge our showroom because we have such a small space and a lot of our customers don’t even realize we carry some of these things,” Kline said. “People really like coming in here, and we’d love to give them more selection.”
Such evolution is necessary to keep the 100-year-old business relevant in today’s marketplace, Wagoner added, and he credited the co-op’s visionary directors, past and present, with helping ensure the future of Farmers Elevator.

“If it weren’t for all the board members with foresight and forward-thinking, we wouldn’t be here today,” Wagoner said. “I truly believe that. I’ve worked with some great boards over the past 13 years, and they’re a knowledgeable, diverse group of people. They can see the vision we have, and they deserve a lot of credit for our success.”

Marking milestones

At MFA Incorporated, we honor the legacy of those who recognized the benefit of working together cooperatively to leverage buying power and their collective voices. MFA and its local affiliates have always existed to benefit our communities, making agricultural goods and services accessible to farmers and rural residents in the area. In addition to the 100th anniversary of Farmers Elevator and Supply Co. in Clinton, Mo., six other MFA local cooperative affiliates are celebrating milestones in 2017.

95 years

  • March 20, 1922: MFA Cooperative Association No. 280, Freeburg, Mo.
  • Aug. 16, 1922: Produce Exchange No. 299, Golden City, Mo.
  • March 24, 1922: Farmers Exchange, Rolla, Mo.
  • July 12, 1922: MFA Cooperative Association, St. Elizabeth, Mo.
  • Oct. 19, 1922: Farmers Cooperative Association No. 301, Sullivan, Mo.

85 years

  • May 17, 1932: MFA Cooperative Association, Salem, Mo.

All aboard the grain train

Written by Allison Jenkins on .

The numbers are impressive. Four 100-car shuttle trains loaded with grain each month. Loading and unloading capacity of 60,000 bushels per hour. More than 1.1 million bushels of upright storage and 6 million bushels of temporary storage. Fewer than 7 minutes of average wait time for a grain truck driver.

But farmers—not figures—are the true measure of success for Central Missouri AGRIService’s new shuttle-loader in Saline County, Mo., just north of Marshall. This fall is the second full harvest season that the high-capacity grain elevator has been in operation, and John Fletcher, CMAS general manager, said the response from customers has been nothing but positive.

“I had a guy call me last fall just to say how much he appreciated us,” Fletcher said. “He said we saved him $1,000 per day for a truck and driver he didn’t have to hire because his other trucks were getting to and from the fields fast enough. Another farmer told me his driver got back to the fields so fast he thought something was wrong. You hear anecdotal stuff like that, and it sure does make you feel good.”

Local farmer Wayne Brown, who grows corn, soybeans and wheat with his son, Cary, has a similar story to share. The row-crop producers have been CMAS customers for years and said the Marshall elevator has made a huge impact on their operation.

“Before this opened, we were using seven trucks and seven drivers, and last year we did almost all our harvest with two trucks and two drivers,” said Brown, whose construction company also did site work for the facility. “That’s a big deal. It’s not only great for me but all the farmers of Saline and surrounding counties.”

A grand opening celebration and official ribbon-cutting were held June 5 at the facility, located near CMAS’ main location in Marshall. Farmers, community leaders and special guests were treated to lunch and tours of the shuttle-loader, which is positioned on the Kansas City Southern Railway and easily accessible from U.S. Highway 65 and Missouri Highway 20, 41 and 240. 

Construction began on the 130-acre greenfield property in December 2014, and it opened on a limited basis to receive grain in September 2015. A year later, construction on the railroad’s loop track began and was completed in January 2017. The side track off the main KCS line accommodates 100-car shuttle trains capable of holding some 350,000 bushels each. This type of facility is preferred by railroads because it offers ease of movement from grain’s origin to its market, said Dan Schueth, manager of railway network planning for KCS.

“For us, the loop track is the way to go,” he said. “We bring the train in, it’s loaded in 12 hours or less, and we take it out. This type of facility offers us speed, convenience, versatility and efficiency, all around. It helps our cars continue to move and keeps them turning quicker.”

CMAS, a joint venture formed in 1999 by members MFA Incorporated, Fletcher Grain Company and Cooperative Association #1 of Slater, Mo., has other grain-handling facilities at its locations in Marshall, Malta Bend, Miami, Slater and Waverly. However, before the new elevator opened, only Marshall and Slater had the ability to ship by rail, Fletcher said, and even then it was only in 25-car increments.

“The most we’d ever unloaded in Marshall on a given day prior to having this facility was about 160,000 bushels,” Fletcher said. “We had days last fall where we unloaded more than 350,000 bushels.”

The need for a larger, faster facility with shuttle-loading capabilities was driven by supply and demand, he said. Bigger crops and better yields mean more grain to be sold. In 2016, Saline County was No. 1 in corn production for Missouri with 26.6 million bushels harvested and the third largest in soybeans with 7.9 million bushels.

“Simply put, we couldn’t ship enough grain,” Fletcher said. “What we took in at harvest filled us up, and we couldn’t ship it fast enough to be competitive for additional grain during the year. We needed shipping capacity that kept up with our origination capacity.”

Not only does the new facility benefit farmers by giving them a quick and convenient place to haul their grain, it also opens up new markets and better pricing opportunities for CMAS and its customers, Fletcher said.

“We can take advantage of carrying charge markets and market inversions when they’re available, and that gives us a better control over the price we get and where we sell,” he explained. “A lot of the bigger grain receivers are doing business in unit trains, so basically we can play with anybody now. We don’t just have to look for the small receivers.”

One such customer is the Ragasa soybean- crushing plant in Monterrey, Mexico. Supply Manager Francisco Belden attended the CMAS grand opening ceremony for a firsthand look at the operation where he intends to source soybeans for Ragasa’s food-grade oil production. In fact, the first loads of soybeans from the Marshall facility were shipped to the Mexico plant this summer. When an ongoing expansion is completed, Ragasa will handle 2,000 railcars each month, Belden said.

 “We have new capacity coming on board and need more beans,” he said. “We like the beans grown here in Missouri, but I haven’t bought [from CMAS] before because they needed a larger elevator to give us a competitive price. This facility is in a very special logistical position to give service to Mexico.”

In addition to soybeans, corn is also being shipped to markets in Mexico and feed mills in Oklahoma and Texas, Fletcher said. Some 30 trains have been loaded and shipped since January, and he said the ultimate goal is 40 to 45 shuttle trains annually.

“If we do that,” Fletcher said, “we’ll accomplish what we set out to accomplish.”


In the Aug/Sept 2017 Issue

Written by webadmin on .

In the August September Today's Farmer Magazine.

Investment for the long haul
MFA strengthens commitment to grain business with opening of Hamilton Rail Facility
by Allison Jenkins

Meet the future of agriculture
MFA’s focus on youth, employee development 
makes a difference
by Nancy Jorgensen
Nutrients now, flexibility later
Why fall fertilization may be right for your operation
by Kerri Lotven
Clear choice
Growers cite erosion control, water retention 
among top benefits of raising cover crops
by Allison Jenkins

Sizeable difference
Farmers find ABS genetics combined with MFA Health Track increase cattle weight by 33 percent
by Kerri lotven
Grade A students
College of the Ozarks’ renowned agricultural 
program provides taste of farm life
by Allison Jenkins
2017 MFA Foundation Scholarships (Link to FlipBook)
Serve and protect
MFA Crop Insurance helps farmers manage risk
by Allison Jenkins
Will crop rotation still protect against corn rootworm?
Recent findings in the field show emerging threat from potentially devastating pest
by Jason Worthington

Winning the weaning game
Separation from mom can be the most stressful 
time for a calf
by Dr. Jim White

Country Corner
Let’s create a ‘Domino’s’ effect
by Allison Jenkins
Start the conversation
Summer gives 16 interns the ‘Ag Experience’
Push for pollinators
Corn: Weather patterns create market uncertainty
Soybeans: Short-term rallies expected ahead
Cattle: Cattle prices trending higher than last year
Wheat: Carryover stocks temper price potential
Cool beans
BUY, sell, trade

Innovation helps MFA navigate the road ahead
by Ernie Verslues, MFA President and CEO


View as printed on paper via flip book.

Just Click on the cover below and it will launch a flip book version of the printed magazine.








Meet the Future of Agriculture

Written by Nancy Jorgensen on .

Erin Woody — Making Bold Moves 

From college intern to assistant manager to business owner—that’s the accelerated career path Erin Woody has taken since she was part of the inaugural MFA Ag Experience internship program in 2013.

She interned with MFA the summer before her senior year at Missouri State University. Before she graduated, she was working for MFA full time. In 2014, she was named retail services manager and then assistant manager in 2016 at MFA Agri Services in Ozark, Mo. At the time, the 25-year-old was the youngest female assistant manager in any MFA location.

Now, her experiences with MFA have given Woody the confidence and skills to make a bold move. She’s in training to take over the operation of her family’s farm store. Woody left Ozark MFA at the end of June and began her new career July 5.

The store has been owned and operated by her grandparents, Dale and Donna Wickstrom, for the past 33 years, and Woody developed a passion for the business long before she looked at it with an entrepreneurial eye.

“I feel like I’m coming home,” said Woody, whose family also raised cattle and sheep. “I pretty much grew up in the store and fell in love with it from the get-go. You’d have customers who would come in and sit down and tell you stories—whether they were true or not. They still do.”

Initially studying ag education in college, Woody said she switched her major specifically to ag business with intentions of running the farm supply store someday. First, however, her family encouraged her to get some experience elsewhere. The MFA Ag Experience program fit the bill.

During her internship, Woody moved around to various locations learning about retail sales, grain production and crop protection. Her final internship project, however, was what earned her the attention and respect of cooperative leaders such as MFA Regional Manager Ed Long. His challenge to her? The Ozark location was underperforming. Figure out why and fix it.

“I scoured data. Took every single ticket in an entire fiscal year and categorized the totals,” she explained. “I looked at how many sales we were doing in each category. Figured out what days of the week they were selling the most things. Looked at everybody’s salary. Evaluated different departments. Had them reduce 20 percent of their inventory.”

At the end of the summer, Woody presented her findings to Ozark Manager Keith McDaniel and then to executives at MFA Incorporated’s Columbia home office.

“Numbers don’t lie, and I was as confident as I could be—maybe a little too confident,” Woody recalled. “I made my presentation, explained what I thought the issue was and how they could fix it. I left there having no idea what the future held. As far as I knew, I had one week left with MFA.”

In fact, the future held a part-time job with MFA while Woody finished college and then a full-time position as second-in-command at the Ozark location.

“Erin shows how interns can develop into dedicated employees who are passionate about agriculture,” McDaniel said. “She has an outgoing personality, and when you give her something to do, she gets it done.”

Erin Teeple, who manages MFA’s Ag Experience program, said that of the 11 interns in the first year when Woody participated, eight were asked to stay on as full-time employees. Of the 50 students in the first four years of the internship program, 40 percent have been hired or remain on staff. Internship numbers are growing steadily and hit 16 in the summer of 2017.

The Ozark location was struggling when Woody started there in 2014, but two years ago, its profitability began improving. She pinpoints that accomplishment as a milestone in her young career.

“My goal was to keep the store in the black,” she said. “As soon as we saw we’d made money that first year, it was truly tears of joy from Keith and I. It wasn’t done individually. It was a complete group effort. It was one of those proud feelings I’ll never forget.”

While she relished her role at Ozark, Woody still had ambitions of eventually running her family’s business. That dream is now a reality.

“Every time I’d go home, I would ask, ‘Are you ready to turn the store over to me?’ and Grandpa would just smile and say, ‘Not yet,’ or ‘You need more training,’” Woody said. “I’d almost given up on the idea. Last year, my grandparents came to me and wanted to know if I was still serious about wanting the store, and we started working on the logistics.”

The youngest of six grandchildren—and the only female—Woody also felt it was important to gain her extended family’s blessing before she bought into the business. There were no objections, she said, and she’s now fully immersed in what she describes as a “slow transition process” to take over the store.

“My main thing is to keep their legacy going,” Woody said. “They’ve done an incredibly successful job with the store, and my intention is to grow it in a positive manner.”

In the bigger picture, Woody said she wants to use her leadership skills to help advance agriculture in the community.

“The stigma of agriculture isn’t what it used to be,” she said. “Growing up, people thought of farming as sows, plows and cows. I think we are truly changing that mindset. It’s important to teach people that it doesn’t matter if you’re big or small, everyone can be involved in agriculture.”

 Jeremy Dold — K-State Bound

Each summer through high school, Jeremy Dold of Emporia, Kan., worked full time on the farm operated by his grandparents, Tony and Virginia Dold. The young man learned to cut, rake and bale hay and combine wheat. Now 18, Dold recently received an MFA Foundation scholarship that will help him pursue a career in agriculture.

“I applied for many scholarships, but this is a big one,” he said. “It’s important to me.”

Dold was among more than 340 students who received $2,000 scholarships from the MFA Foundation in the spring of 2017. AgChoice of Emporia, which is owned by MFA Incorporated, sponsored his scholarship. Dold, a 2017 graduate of Emporia High School, will use the funds to attend Kansas State University this fall.

The experience on his grandparents’ farm inspired Dold to major in mechanical engineering. He plans to use the degree to build a career designing and improving farm equipment.

“We spent so much time fixing equipment on the farm,” he said. “If we make equipment more durable, we can focus on making the land as productive as possible.”

Dold is the second-oldest of five children—two boys and three girls. His mother, Joan, works as youth director at their church and his father, Dan, is a mechanical engineer at Camso, a plant that manufactures tracks for agricultural equipment. His father’s career also inspired Dold’s interest in machinery, and he landed a job working at the factory this summer, too.

“Jobs in my field are available around Emporia,” Dold said. “My dream for the future is a peaceful life near family in a big house in the countryside, with a wife and kids.”

While in high school, Jeremy took part in FFA, the National Honors Society, Key Club and the Robotics Club. He led the marching band drum line and captained the wrestling team.

MFA Foundation Scholarships are offered at high schools and sponsored by participating MFA AgChoice locations, MFA Agri Services Centers, MFA Oil Company propane plants and MFA Oil Company bulk plant local affiliates. 
“MFA supports youth in agriculture because we know that today’s young people are tomorrow’s leaders,” said Pam Hiller, secretary-treasurer of the MFA Foundation. “We’ve done this for more than 50 years to the tune of more than 14,000 scholarships and $15 million.”

Interested students should contact their school counselor to see if an MFA Foundation scholarship is available in their area. Counselors can obtain applications from participating MFA locations. For more information, visit

John Hyder — Prepped  for success 

John Hyder has held several jobs in his 47 years—on the farm, in the Navy, and as an electronics expert. But he said he’s never been in a position that felt as natural as managing the MFA Feed Mill in Aurora, Mo.

Hyder’s confidence got a boost in the past year when he was one of 58 MFA Incorporated supervisors selected for a new Management Series training program designed to prepare promising leaders.

“MFA’s success in providing quality products and services to our customers is critical to the future of agriculture,” Hyder said. “I appreciated the opportunity to attend the series. We learned a lot about how to help MFA continue as an industry leader.”

The Aurora plant is one of seven MFA feed mills in Missouri and Kansas. In Aurora, Hyder manages 23 employees who manufacture about 90,000 tons of feed a year for dairy, beef, poultry, swine, goats, sheep, horses, deer and rabbits.

Amanda Cooper, vice president of corporate services for MFA Incorporated, oversees the Management Series and led several sessions.

“We created the series to provide continued high-level development for up-and-coming MFA leaders, and John is a leader,” she said. “We want to make sure we’re providing growth opportunities to keep employees like John engaged. He has a great head for business and a big heart for employees.”

The series ran from November 2016 to February 2017 with three separate day-and-a-half classes featuring topics such as leadership, communications, human resources and financial management. Also covered were basic supervisory practices, teamwork, and how to direct and coach employees. The series will be repeated for other supervisors in the future.

Hyder’s supervisor recommended him for the series, and in other cases, employees asked to participate. Hyder said his favorite part of the course involved learning about how to communicate with different personality types.

“I also learned how to have difficult conversations with people so we can be more effective,” he added.

Raised on a farm near Marshfield, Mo., Hyder earned an animal sciences degree from the University of Missouri, and then moved to Massachusetts to work in electronics for Lockheed Martin. In 2007, Hyder and his wife, Leanne, returned to Marshfield to raise their children—now 16, 20 and 22—in the country. He went to work at MFA, rose through the ranks and took the reins of the Aurora plant as general manager in 2015.

“I enjoy my job and appreciate everyone I work with,” said Hyder, who raises beef and swine in his spare time. “My dream is to continue to raise my family in a farming community and to make sure MFA continues to be vital to agriculture’s success.”

The future of agriculture looks bright, Hyder said, but he sees a few challenges ahead, particularly from regulations designed to ensure a safe food chain.

“I’m confident MFA is working diligently to be proactive and meet these challenges,” he said.

 Jacob Hoellering — Ag Experience Intern, Round Two

Jacob Hoellering thought he knew a lot about crops when he took his first internship with MFA’s Ag Experience program in 2016, but a summer of walking fields with crop consultants proved just how much he had to learn.

“I really fell in love with the agronomy side of things and being out on the farm talking to people, so that is why I went into seed sales this summer,” said Hoellering, who was raised on a row-crop and livestock farm in California, Mo. “It’s one of the most important things about being a salesman—to build a relationship with your growers and get to know them.”

The Ag Experience is a partnership between educational institutions and MFA Incorporated. Students are hired by MFA into a professional or technical position that correlates with their area of study. During the 12-week internship, students receive the kind of hands-on experience that prepares them for the workforce. The MFA Ag Experience provides students with a chance to learn about agriculture as professional employees. MFA customizes each internship, catering as much as possible to a student’s interest.

Students who perform well during the program may receive an offer to return to MFA the following summer or work part-time throughout the school year. That is what happened to Hoellering, who was asked to come back for a second-year internship this summer. He started as a regional intern his first summer and interned in seed sales in 2017.

Hoellering said that when he had a chance to come back to MFA for a second internship, it was an offer he “couldn’t refuse.” He went from walking fields and finding his career interests in his first summer to talking with growers and building relationships with them in his second summer. He has learned to load orders, treat soybeans, scout fields and make feed deliveries.

Hoellering, a junior at the University of Missouri studying plant sciences, said he hopes to get a job immediately after college. He said he believes seed sales would be the best career fit, and he loves being able to put what he has learned in the classroom to the test during his work experience.

Every Ag Experience intern has a summer project. Hoellering’s project included interviewing seed sales people in his region about their definition of success and what is important for customers. He is also talking to customers about what they look for in seed and in a brand and why they buy seed from MFA. 

“The overall goal is to not only help the seed sales staff to perform their job better, but also to make the customer happy,” Hoellering said. “That way we can do what is best for them.”

 When asked what his advice would be for other Ag Experience interns, Hoellering said to take every given opportunity.

“The experience that I have gotten in the past couple summers is just amazing,” he said. “I never thought on the first day that I would go into the home office and sit down with the CEO and vice president and talk with them one on one.”

Hopeful about his future in the agriculture industry, Hoellering said he believes growing up on his family’s farm and being active in FFA has helped him in his success. He even spent his freshman year of college as a Missouri State FFA Officer. 

“It is something that is really important to me. This is one industry that is never going away,” said Hoellering. “Everything in your daily life connects to agriculture in one way or another. I feel very confident going into an agriculture-related field.” 

The MFA Ag Experience is available to college students who have completed either their sophomore or junior year in a bachelor’s program in agriculture, business or a related field. For more information, download a brochure and application form at www.mfa-inc.com/about/youth

—This portion of the story is by MFA Communications Intern Madison Byrd, also a 2017 Ag Experience participant.

Investment for the long haul

Written by Allison Jenkins on .

From concept to completion, it was a celebration more than five years in the making—or some might say, more than 100 years in the making.

The MFA Rail Facility in Hamilton hosted an open house June 20-21 with festivities befitting the historic occasion. The shuttle-loader grain operation is MFA’s largest single investment in real dollars in any geographic region, and it’s the first such facility for MFA Incorporated and its partner in the project, MFA Oil.

The facility will benefit farmers in north central Missouri and southern Iowa by providing them a modern, high-speed grain facility to deliver crops and quickly unload during peak seasons. It will also provide new efficiencies for MFA Incorporated’s grain operations as well as access to large and diverse markets such as exporters, poultry and cattle operations, and other end users of grain in areas that stretch from the Gulf Coast to the West Coast and Mexico.

“I’ve been asked, ‘Why would MFA want to build a shuttle-loader facility at this point in its history?’” said Mitch Dawson, MFA Incorporated director of grain operations. “The question is really, ‘Why not?’ MFA has been around 103 years, and we’ve served all aspects of agriculture. What we haven’t done is give farmers the most up-to-date grain-handling site and access to markets they’ve never had before—until now.”

Several hundred guests at the two-day open house had a chance to hear from company officials, see grain-receiving demonstrations and take tours of the newly completed facility. Local farmers and MFA employees had the honor of ceremoniously unloading grain during the event.

“When we saw those first trucks come through, it was like a dream come true,” said Adam McIntyre, MFA regional manager who serves the area. “We’ve been waiting so long for it to happen, and it’s finally here. When I looked around today and saw the look of amazement on the faces of our employees and customers, it was really a proud moment.”

One of the inaugural trucks through the facility was owned by Hamilton farmer Ted Sloan, a former MFA Incorporated director, and driven by neighboring producer Quintin Jones. Both raise several hundred acres of grain and say they believe the facility will be a big boost to the local farm economy.

“I served on the MFA corporate board for more than 25 years, so it was an honor to be one of the first ones in line,” Sloan said. “This is something our community has been needing for a long time. I’ve really enjoyed watching this facility go up. My wife and I would come out here every week and check out the progress. We’re fortunate to have something like this here.”

Not only does the Hamilton facility represent a change in the skyline of Caldwell County, it also represents a change in MFA’s approach to the grain business, MFA Incorporated CEO Ernie Verslues said, addressing the open house crowd.

“What you see here today is a culmination of more than five years of searching, scouting, analyzing, designing and building a facility that will take MFA’s commitment to another level in the grain business,” Verslues said. “Opportunities don’t just happen. You must create them. We’ve created an opportunity here at Hamilton.”

The joint venture between MFA Incorporated and MFA Oil Company brings resources and expertise from both cooperatives and a significant investment in local communities. MFA Oil installed a 60,000-gallon propane tank to power the grain dryer and plans to build a Petro-Card 24 fuel station adjacent to the site as well.

“This facility, to me, is all about vision,” said Mark Fenner, president and CEO of MFA Oil. “Farmers working to build something more than they could build on their own is really what set our companies in motion. This grain shuttle project exemplifies that vision. We are proud to partner with MFA Incorporated in bringing it to fruition. Today, we just got better.”

The two companies broke ground in May 2016, but the idea took root in 2012 when MFA began exploring the feasibility of putting a large rail facility in north central or northwest Missouri, Dawson said. MFA has 20 local grain elevators in the region, which is rich in corn and soybean production.

The construction site was strategically chosen because of its location on four-lane Highway 36, proximity to Interstate 35 and connection to the Union Pacific Railroad. With a side track off the main line to accommodate a 110-car “shuttle” train, the facility is also known as a “loop-loader” because the track is in a circle linked to the main line. Railroads prefer to load grain via shuttle for ease of movement from a point of origin to a destination.

“When we started talking to the Union Pacific railroad, they told us there were only three or four places left on their system where a new shuttle-loader would work,” Dawson said. “One of those spots was in north central Missouri.”

Officials say size and efficiency for a growing grain industry are the objectives of the facility, which can move 60,000 bushels per hour as farmers deliver grain. A 110-car shuttle train will hold approximately 420,000 bushels of corn or 380,000 bushels of soybeans and can be loaded in fewer than eight hours. The operation will position MFA to potentially reduce truck traffic by 14 to 15 million bushels of grain annually.

While the Hamilton facility is designed to move grain rather than store it, there are 2.1 million bushels of permanent grain storage and 1.5 million bushels of temporary storage on site. This can help relieve harvest-time pressure on existing MFA facilities and give farmers a year-round outlet to sell corn and soybeans.

“We think we’ll run approximately 17,700 semis through this facility a year, and the majority of that grain will be pulled 50 to 90 miles from this location,” Dawson said. “We believe we are doing something here that will benefit the farmer, benefit MFA members and benefit the region as a whole.”

The facility will be operated by MFA Incorporated with seven full-time employees, including grain operations superintendent David Jones, and offer seasonal part-time jobs as demand grows. After retiring from a military service in 2006, Jones began a second career in the grain industry, including managing three different shuttle facilities from Texas to Colorado and, most recently, Kansas. The St. Joseph, Mo., native said the MFA Rail Facility offers advantages in economics and efficiency.

“You get better rates on shipping 110 rail cars with 420,000 bushels in one shot than trucks with 1,000 bushels at a time,” Jones explained. “So, this facility opens the door for better pricing and gives farmers a better market for their grain. They don’t have to go to the city, where they might spend six to eight hours in line versus coming here and getting out in five to 15 minutes.”

That convenience is what Maysville, Mo., grain producer Brad Bray is looking forward to the most come harvest time. His farm is about 25 miles away from the Hamilton Rail Facility, a much shorter distance than the 70 miles to Kansas City where he normally transports grain.

“Instead of hauling grain to the city, we can get it here a lot quicker, and that allows us to get the grain off the farm and keep more storage open,” Bray said. “It will help us with shorter travel distances, quicker return times to the field, and hopefully, a faster harvest. At harvest, time is everything.”

While the June events marked the official opening of the Hamilton facility, work has continued throughout the summer to complete construction and work out any issues before harvest hits. The first shuttle cars are expected to be loaded and shipped in late August.

“The real work has just begun,” Verslues said. “It’s up to us to take advantage of our strength in this area. We have all the ingredients and the people to make it successful. It’s an investment for the long haul.”

View a time-lapse video of construction at: https://youtu.be/shBcOXkAJNg

See more about the Rail Facility here: https://youtu.be/awfaKaXELf4




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