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Grand upgrade for grain

Just 18 months after an explosion destroyed part of the grain facility at West Central AGRIServices in Adrian, Mo., employees, customers and MFA leaders celebrated the grand opening of a brand-new, state-of-the-art complex that is well positioned to serve area farmers far into the future.

It’s a prime example of turning a negative situation into a posi­tive, said Dale Guss, who has managed the Adrian location since 2005, about a year after MFA Enterprises purchased West Central.

“That fateful day is what started this whole deal, moving us for­ward, and it developed into what you see here today,” Guss said just prior to a ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 26. “There’s been a lot of talk through the years about what to do to increase our capacity. We could put more bins up, but we were always going to be throt­tled by receiving capabilities. Our job is to make sure the combine never stops running. I’m pretty excited to see what we can do this fall and how our customers respond.”

With an original capacity of 1.6 million bushels, Adrian’s first elevator was built in the mid-1970s to serve farmers in this row-crop-rich area. The new facility is 40% larger, capable of handling 2.5 million bushels of grain with an additional 2.5 million bushels of temporary storage.

“We struggled in the ’70s for elevators and places to dump our grain, with our 40-bushel pickups and 200-bushel trucks. You were always waiting in lines and waiting on railcars. It was a wreck,” said Carl Ferguson, a local farmer who was one of West Central’s original investors. “It’s hard to believe how far we’ve come. What MFA is done here is just amazing, and we appreciate it. Good personnel, good facility.

Phase 1 of construction on the rebuild­ing project started less than six months from day of the explosion, which happened on New Year’s Eve 2020. It was operational in four and a half months in time for soybean harvest that year. The first load of grain was received Oct. 19, 2021, and the first railcars were loaded Dec. 28, 2021. Phase 2 of construction was completed this summer, with the first load of grain received June 28.

Guss said the biggest improvement is the elevator leg capac­ity, which increased from 25,000 bushels per hour to 90,000 bushels per hour. The new facility is capable of loading a railcar in less than 5 minutes, where previously it took about 12 minutes. The main truck receiving pit also increased from a 900-bushel to 1,300-bushel capacity, cutting unload time in half.

Among other improvements, three new concrete grain silos added 1.2 million bushels in storage space. In addition, the grain dryer was upgraded from 1,000 bushels per hour to 5,000 bushels per hour with a fully automated continuous flow system served by its own wet and dry legs. New truck scales, intercom system and ticket printer have also been installed, making the loading and unloading process more efficient for drivers.

The improvements had been in long-term plans, said Ernie Verslues, MFA Incorporated CEO. In identifying strategic objectives for the future of the company, leaders recognized the potential benefits of increased capabilities at the Adrian location, he said, and the explosion in December 2020 just accelerated the process.

“What you see here today is actually a part of a plan that this group presented more than five years ago,” Verslues said at the grand opening. “Yes, they had a tragic event hap­pen, but they had a plan, they had a dream, and they had a vision. Without that, you don’t get this far, this fast. As a company, MFA is excited about the investment we’ve made here, and we’re excited about the opportunities it brings for producers in the area.”

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