In the Oct. 2017 Issue

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Country Corner
Who are the heroes in your life?
by Allison Jenkins

UpFront / Blog
Something for everyone at Ozark Farmfest
Livestock project premium program rewards hard work
Hops are the newest crop to be studied at MU
Hard day’s night

All aboard the grain train
Central Missouri AGRIService’s new shuttle-loader keeps pace with production
by Allison Jenkins

Agriculture pulls together for Missouri’s hungry children
Industry collaboration yields 1.8 million meals for families, school backpack programs

Elevator for everyone
Clinton cooperative celebrates 100 years 
of serving farming community
by Allison Jenkins

The future of agriculture
Ag leaders share perspectives on what’s ahead for the industry
by Nancy Jorgensen

All for eight seconds  (COVER STORY)
It’s tough to stay on top in riding, raising rodeo bulls
Extended photo slideshow online
by Kerri Lotven

Going viral
Insecticide seed treatments can help prevent damaging wheat diseases
by Jason Worthington
What we’re learning from the dicamba dilemma
New crop protection technology brings both pros and cons
by Dr. Jason Weirich

Lush pastures can equal lung problems for cattle
Take care when moving beef herds from dormant forage to green grasses
by Dr. Jim White

Power tool
Beta-testers praise the utility, versatility of the new PowerCalf Mobile App
by Kerri Lotven

Corn: South American 
competition keeps prices low
Soybeans: Soybean oil 
demand may boost price
Cattle: Cattle herd is largest since 2008
Wheat: World supplies 
continue to influence price

Pigging out
Printed Version
TF's NEW Digital Food Page

BUY, sell, trade

October is cooperative month
by Ernie Verslues

You may view the magazine as printed by CLICKING HERE or
click on the magazine image below to view a flip book of the magazine.









All for eight seconds

Written by Kerri Lotven on .

Eight seconds. That’s the amount of time it takes to complete a qualified bull ride. Eight blood-rushing, heart-pounding seconds in which anything could go awry.

This is where training, talent and tenacity collide. Both the rider and bull have been prepared for those eight seconds, when perseverance pays off and hard work is put to the test. Reach that magic mark, and the rider has done something very few have achieved. The bull? Well, he’s done his job, too.

“When that whistle goes off, it’s just a rush,” said 22-year-old Cole Bass, a bull rider and fighter from Jonesburg, Mo. “It’s like everything you’ve worked for is clicking and coming together.”

It takes a certain kind of person to climb on a 2,000-pound bucking bull, strap one hand by a rope to the animal’s back and try to stay on top for those eight seconds. Though “crazy” may come to mind, it’s not the word that truly describes these cowboys. Tough. Determined. Daring. Fearless. That’s more like it.

“Bull riding is just like any other extreme sport,” said Isaiah Dunn of Warrensburg, Mo., a former rider and current owner of Amped Up Productions Pro Bull Riding Tour. “It’s something that most people wouldn’t do, and there’s something about knowing that you can.”

Bass began riding at 9 years old worked his way up through the age divisions. Through his career, he’s earned the titles of reserve state champion, state champion and National Federation of Professional Bull Riders Rookie of the Year, and he’s taken home 22 buckles and one saddle.

His laundry list of awards is only surpassed by his laundry list of injuries, something he has in common with most of his fellow bull riders. In fact, Bass has retired due to the injuries he’s sustained. He tore a ligament in his riding hand that required multiple surgeries. He has two foot-long scars along each side of his right arm from compartment syndrome, which is dangerously excessive pressure inside his muscles. He’s broken both ankles, his jaw, his ribs and his nose.

He’s now taken up bullfighting, which allows him to continue to be around the sport. Turns out, he’s good at it.

“Having ridden bulls prior to fighting them, I know a lot of things to look out for,” Bass said. “I’ve been in the situations. I know what’s going to happen. I know where I need to be and the timing part of it. It all comes naturally.”

Occasionally, Bass still rides. At the Sept. 2 Riding for Our Veterans event hosted by Amped Up Productions in Lathrop, Mo., Bass filled in for a rider who didn’t show. It was one of a handful of times he’s ridden since his last surgery two years ago. He took home a buckle that night.

“I love the sport,” Bass said. “And I want to be around it the rest of my life, whether I’m riding or fighting.”

Trey Holston, an 18-year-old rider from Fort Scott, Kan., echoed that sentiment.

“It’s not the safest job you can have, but like any other extreme sport, it’s fun, and the danger is part of that,” Holston said. “You’re not going to avoid injury, but there is technique to staying as safe as possible, and you’ve got to just keep getting back on.”

Indeed, a rider’s technique plays a major part in his ability to complete a qualified ride, and that technique must become second nature. While mastering the skills can be achieved in different ways, the primary principle is to move with the bull, Holston explained. When the bull rears back, the rider needs to lean forward. When the bull kicks, the rider should sit down and lean his chest back. If the bull is moving toward the left, a rider puts his weight on the left leg, and vice versa.

During it all, the rider tries to keep his mind clear and rely on instinct.

“If you’re thinking about the way you’re supposed to be riding while the bull is bucking, you’re already behind,” Holston said. “It takes too long to think when you’re dealing with something that happens in a matter of seconds. You have to practice so much that it’s just a reaction to make the correct moves to stay on. It’s such a reaction-based sport that it’s best to just let things happen.”

Most riders tell a version of this. Isaac Toliver, now 21, started riding bulls when he was 12 and works with Dunn on his ranch.

“Every ride is different, but bull riding is one of the sports where you really want to stay out of your head,” Toliver said. “You just want to let your body react.”

It takes a tremendous amount of training to get to the point of instinctive reaction. Staying on a bucking bull amounts to balance and strength. Riders focus on their core and leg muscles to maintain that balance. They may also practice with a barrel, which is often mechanical to simulate the bull’s moves. Bass said he believes the best method is riding a horse bareback.

“Riding a horse feels pretty similar to riding a bull, and you can practice your motions,” he said. “It’s the best thing for you.”

While it takes a special type of person to ride a bucking bull, it takes a special kind of animal to be a bucking bull. Raising a top-performing rodeo bull takes both nature and nurture, according to Ernest Brauch, who handles the bucking bulls for Lucas Cattle Company in Wheatland, Mo. Lucas sponsors Amped Up events, and Brauch enters the ranch’s bulls as a stock contractor.

“An elite-level bucking bull is kind of like an elite-level race horse,” Brauch said. “In my opinion, it’s almost just a freak of genetics. That’s what everyone tries to do in raising bucking bulls. They’re trying to find that special one.”

Brauch began raising bucking bulls in 2013 and is currently caring for nine bulls, 10 heifers and seven calves, four of which are bulls. He also oversees the commercial herd on Lucas Ranch, which is owned by Lucas Oil Products founder Forrest Lucas and his wife, Charlotte. Soon, Brauch will begin to see if those bull calves are bound for future rodeos.

“Not every bull calf turns out to be a bucking bull,” Brauch said, “because not every calf will buck. It’s just instinct.”

When a bull is about 1 year old, Brauch will place a soft cotton rope around the calf’s flank. This flank strap lightly brushes against the animal’s lower abdomen, letting him know there’s something there. The calf will either buck against the rope, or he won’t. Brauch repeats this process on a couple of different occasions to determine each calf’s potential.

Bucking bulls are raised similarly to their commercial cattle counterparts, which means nutrition is just as important. While the calves are growing in their first year, Brauch feeds them 1 percent of their body weight daily, and they all receive MFA Shield Technology in their ration.

“I want to put some muscle mass on them for a little while before we start to lean them up for bucking,” Brauch explained.

Once Brauch determines the calves’ potential, he uses a dummy to simulate a rider on the bull’s back. Around 3 years old, the bulls will begin competing with a live rider. At that point, the bull will know his job. When that rodeo chute opens, the bull is judged and receives a score, just like his rider.

“They’re athletes,” Brauch said. “They know when they get into the arena, they’re part of the performance.”

The truly elite bulls are difficult to come by, he said. No amount of training can account for raw talent. And like racehorses, elite level bucking bulls can make the owner a significant amount of money, both in winnings and worth. Most bucking bulls can sell anywhere from $3,000-$10,000, but Brauch said he’s seen one go for $250,000.

“At that point, it’s whatever a buyer is willing to pay,” he said. “And you never know when a bull is going to reach his prime. It could be when they’re 6 years old. It could be when they’re 3.”

For participants, bull riding is more than just talent and training, he added. It’s tradition.

“It’s our history,” said Brauch. “Cattle made this country, in my opinion. If it weren’t for people setting up homesteads and raising cattle in the 1800s, we wouldn’t be here. Cattle put us on the map, and rodeos started as contests to test ranchers’ skills. It was something to do to have fun.”

In the spirit of this tradition, many riders have their sights set on a professional rodeo career, while some, such as Colton Michael of Kearney, Mo., would rather follow Brauch’s path.

“Everyone wants to do what you love for a living,” Michael said, “but you can’t ride forever. A lot of bull riders, when they retire, start raising bucking bulls. It only comes natural. That’s what I’d like to do, eventually. But right now, I’m just going to concentrate on making it to finals.”

The future of agriculture

Written by Nancy Jorgensen on .

Verslues outlines future challenges for producers and MFA

Ernie Verslues has been president and CEO of MFA Incorporated since 2015. He has 29 years of cooperative business experience at MFA, including stints as a regional manager and chief financial officer. MFA Incorporated provides products, services and professional advice to 45,000 farmers and ranchers in five states. Verslues was raised on a dairy farm near Taos, Mo.

1. What significant issues does MFA face?
No. 1 is the farm economy. Given today’s commodity prices and input costs, it’s a tough time for producers, and that impacts agribusiness. MFA’s success will always be tied to the success of our member-owners. Next, our success is tied to the strength of our workforce. MFA employees are talented and passionate, but it’s becoming more challenging to fill some key positions—particularly drivers and applicators. Thirdly, regulations continue to add costs to our operations that can’t be recouped.

2. Is MFA changing to meet the needs of farmers?
MFA offers robust precision farming and livestock programs and a strong farm supply and grain marketing presence. We continue to push boundaries as new technology becomes available. Our precision team has experience with the equipment and data analysis it takes to make variable-rate planting a reality. While that’s not widely adopted in our trade territory yet, we know the technology’s value. We have also seen substantial growth in pasture and hay acres enrolled in precision programs. For livestock producers, PowerCalf is a new approach to herd management that uses data collection and processing to improve production. We recently announced a new component in our Health Track program that includes genetic information to give buyers even more confidence in the potential of calves in the program. MFA Shield Technology delivers health benefits to livestock without needing a Veterinary Feed Directive. We are leaders in this technology.

3. Why does MFA continue to thrive?
All of our services came about because of a need in the marketplace. MFA was formed more than 100 years ago to fill a void. Our longevity can be attributed to a commitment to change, and change will keep occurring at a faster pace. Every day, employees throughout MFA anticipate the next challenges and opportunities facing our member-owners. We will continue to innovate and focus on increasing our market share in the areas we serve, evaluating costs and becoming more efficient.

4. How important are cooperatives like MFA?
One of the principles of a cooperative is to provide economic benefit to member owners. You won’t always see this in our day-to-day transactions, but cooperatives provide a competitive environment for producers. We provide rural jobs, distribute earnings to members and invest in local communities. To remain strong, we must stay in touch with member-owners to maintain interest in local operations and cooperative governance.

5. What do you see for agriculture under President Trump?
I believe the outlook is positive, but time will tell. Despite his limited background in agriculture, the President filled the Secretary of Agriculture and the EPA Administrator positions with business- and agriculture-friendly individuals. Both bring experience and common sense to their roles. However, producers remain concerned about the next farm bill, renewable fuel standards, crop insurance and trade policies.

6. What’s your financial forecast for U.S. producers?
Most producers entered this downturn in fairly good financial shape, but the last few years ate into working capital and equity. As with any business, those who manage costs stand the best chance of success. Can the producer increase production, spread costs over more acres and animals, postpone equipment purchases, walk away from excessive cash rents or find other ways to increase efficiencies? These are tough strategic decisions. If this environment continues, creditors will force decisions. It’s an especially difficult time for young farmers and ranchers to get started.

7. How can we turn things around?
Cycles aren’t new to agriculture, and the farm economy will improve. But don’t expect the good times experienced from 2010 to 2014 to return. We continue to increase U.S. production, and growth in usage must come from trade. China may become a new market for beef, but we need to move our carryover of corn, beans and wheat.

8. Can we build support for agriculture?  
Many organizations do a good job of advocating for agriculture, and MFA is one of them. But nothing is more powerful than a producer discussing his or her farming practices and stewardship commitment with the public. Consumers want to know more about food, and their biggest concerns include GMOs, antibiotics and animal welfare. Without more help from producers, we can’t combat the negativity put forward by activists and environmental groups. Agricultural producers make up less than 2 percent of the population; we’ve got to educate the other 98 percent.

9. What’s your dream for the future?
For farmers to be able to continue doing what they love to do—to grow safe, healthy and affordable food. As an industry, we are forced to spend too much time addressing issues that distract us from that and add unnecessary costs to our operations. One day I hope regulators, activists and social media critics understand the value we provide in production agriculture—we are true stewards of the land, air and water.

Fleck and CFI strive to earn consumer trust

The Center for Food Integrity celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, and Terry Fleck has been executive director from the beginning. This not-for-profit organization, based in Gladstone, Mo., helps the food industry earn trust by engaging with the public to provide balanced, credible information on how food is produced. The center is supported by farmers, farm organizations and food companies. Previously, Fleck was with the Indiana Pork Producers Council and the U.S. Grains Council.

1. What’s the focus at the Center for Food Integrity? 
The public is more interested than ever before in how food is produced, who’s producing it, what’s in it and how it impacts health. Skepticism is prevalent, particularly with biotechnology. Our goal is to earn trust.

2. Has consumer trust declined?
CFI research shows that most consumers like and trust farmers, but they don’t trust “big ag.” The perception is that “big ag” and “big food” will put profit ahead of public interest. The latest survey shows that 80 percent have a strong desire to learn more about how food is produced. It’s a golden opportunity for the agriculture community to commit to long-term public engagement. We must demonstrate that while farming has changed, values regarding high standards in animal care, food production and environmental stewardship remain strong.    

3. When did trust levels begin to fall?
When Roundup Ready seed and other biotechnology breakthroughs were introduced in the 1990s, scientific studies and regulatory bodies concluded they were safe. Engaging the public wasn’t given much consideration. This unintentional lack of transparency eroded trust in biotech and the food system.

4. What are you doing to build trust?
The CFI trust model demonstrates that communicating shared values is three-to-five times more important to building trust than simply sharing facts and science. The public wants to know that you’re doing the right things for the right reasons. Here’s how we can help:

  • In our 2017 consumer research, set for release this fall, we uncover perceptions toward information coming from governments, non-profits, traditional media and consumers’ personal tribes as it pertains food. This will help us evaluate to what extent consumers look to reaffirm existing beliefs and how to best engage to earn their trust.
  • Our “Engage” in-person training program equips participants with tools to engage with the public using the power of shared values in one-on-one conversations, online and in media interviews. That same curriculum is now offered through “Engage Online,” our self-paced training program.
  • We also form coalitions on important food topics including the Coalition for Responsible Gene Editing and the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply.

5. What’s your dream for consumer and producer relations?
Agriculture’s goal should be to embrace authentic transparency. We can’t assume that the public knows we prioritize safety and care about health, animal well-being and the environment. Consumers want details so they can decide for themselves. To learn more, visit www.foodintegrity.org.

 Rural communities
Chinn wants to do MORE for agriculture

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens appointed Chris Chinn as Director of Agriculture in January. A fifth-generation Missouri farmer, Chinn has served on the boards of the Missouri Farm Bureau and the Missouri Pork Association and participated in Agriculture Leaders of Tomorrow. She is a long-time advocate of agriculture through social media and public speaking.

1. What’s your focus as Director of Agriculture?
In May, we rolled out our vision for the Department of Agriculture—MORE—which is about enhancing the quality of life in rural Missouri and building on the proud tradition of our farmers and ranchers. The focus is on four pillars: feed MORE, reach MORE, connect MORE and empower MORE.  

2. What other ideas will you advocate?
Rural communities depend on farmers and ranchers as much as farmers and ranchers depend on rural communities. Right now, rural areas have a competitive disadvantage when it comes to business development, healthcare, education and farming techniques because of a lack of high-speed internet. The Federal Communications Commission’s Broadband Progress Report reveals that 20 percent of all Missourians don’t have access to high-speed internet. I will bring the right people together to ensure that broadband access is available every last mile.

3.  How will the department change under your leadership?  
As we launch the MORE vision, we have asked department employees what they think we can do better. We’ll use that feedback and other observations to determine how we can better serve the state’s 99,000 farmers and ranchers. We’ll also encourage feedback on rules in the Code of State Regulations.

4. What do you foresee for departmental regulations?
Gov. Greitens understands that agriculture is an area of strength for Missouri, and he wants to empower farmers and ranchers to do what they do best—raise quality food. He is taking aim at reducing the amount of burdensome and unnecessary rules. Via executive order, he halted the addition of any new rules between Jan. 10 and Feb. 28, 2017, and called for a thorough review of every state agency rule.

5. What can you do to build support for agriculture?
One of the main pillars of MORE is reach MORE. Everyone in the world eats and we as farmers need to connect with consumers. I will continue to be a strong advocate for sharing the farm story through social media and traditional media.  

6. Will agriculture continue as a bright spot in terms of trade? 
In my role as director, I talk with farmers and ranchers as well as consumers about the importance of trade. Missouri agriculture is extremely diverse. From corn and soybeans in the north and cotton and rice in the south, our producers need markets to sell their goods. The department’s marketing staff works every day to help farmers identify and secure new markets.

7. How can you enhance success for tomorrow’s farmers?
I’m passionate about making rural Missouri a place where our children and grandchildren can thrive. My goal is to ensure that my children, Rachelle and Conner, have an opportunity to live in a community with same amenities I had when I moved back.

FFA leader Aaron Mott preps for a future in agriculture

Aaron Mott, 18, is vice president of Missouri FFA. He graduated from David H. Hickman High School in Columbia, Mo., in May 2017 and is studying agricultural education and leadership at the University of Missouri. He hopes to work for a genetics company and raise sheep and cattle. His dad, Jason Mott, is corporate credit manager at MFA Incorporated and his mom, Becky, works for University of Missouri Extension. He partners with his brother, Andy, to raise registered Polled Herefords.

1. Why do you want a career in agriculture?  
I’ve known I would enter this field since I was 4, when I wanted to be a cowboy. Grandpa Mott ran a slaughterhouse in western Missouri, and Grandpa Ridder raises registered Polled Herefords on the east side of the state. I want to make a difference for someone, just like my family influenced me. Feeding people is a huge responsibility, and farmers don’t take it lightly. While we love and care for our animals, we also understand why they are on the earth. It is a job that we love, one that is often not the most recognized or held in the highest regard, but it’s vital.

2. Has your FFA experience prepared you for the future?
FFA developed my leadership skills and brought me out of my shy stage. I gained skills in public speaking, livestock evaluation, animal science, veterinary science and real-life experience.

3. You raised sheep for your FFA Supervised Agricultural Experience. Why sheep?
I own 15 Hampshire sheep, a dual-purpose breed raised for meat and wool. I sell lambs to kids who want to show them at the county fair. I purchased ewes from my great-uncle, Dean, and great-grandad, Houghton, several years ago. My great-uncle, Tom, started the flock in the 1950s as his FFA project, and that heritage is special to me. Sheep have the highest profit margins of any major livestock species and thrive on rougher ground. Through my project, we learned we could companion-graze sheep with our cattle. As farmland availability decreases, companion grazing may be an alternative for producers to consider. 

4.  How will your part-time jobs in the university genetic engineering lab and at a veterinary clinic impact your future?  
Working at the vet clinic helps me learn more about how to care for my own livestock. My experience has already helped me catch early signs of illness, treat it, and prevent a bigger problem. I’m excited about genetic engineering because it solves problems for producers while helping to end world hunger.

5. Can we bridge the gap between farmers and consumers?
Consumer distrust comes from a lack of understanding. Many people in the U.S. are four generations removed from the farm. Agriculture Days at Hickman High School is one of my favorite events. Students who aren’t familiar with animals come face-to-face with a cow, pig or goat. For some of these students, I may be the only livestock producer they’ve ever talked with. Real-life, hands-on experiences can make a difference for consumers.


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.”



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