Thursday, April 3, 2014

MKC Employees Host Third Annual Food Drive

By Kerry Watson, Director of Communications

The statistics for food insecure homes in Kansas are staggering. According to a study released March 31, 2014 by the Kansas Food Bank and Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, the food budget needed by families struggling with hunger in Kansas each year is an estimated $164,968,840.

Throughout the month of April, MKC employees are joining together to help fill the shelves of area food banks through their third annual food drive, "Together We Can Fight Hunger".

"We know supplies for area food banks can be stressed during the summer," said Adam McDaniel, member of the MKC Community Involvement Committee. "Through a collective effort, we can make a meaningful difference for so many families in our area."

Last year, MKC employees collected 12,403 pounds of food and donated $15,000 to nine food banks throughout central Kansas. "Our goal for this year is to collect 15,000 pounds," McDaniel said.

MKC employees invite the public to join them in their food drive by dropping off non-perishable food items at any MKC location by April 30. Together we can fight hunger in our communities!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Growing With a Purpose

By Nichole Gouldie, Communications Specialist
What happens when something grows? It changes, doesn’t it?  A wheat seed looks different after being in the ground for a month and livestock will someday reach an age of weaning.

“If our co-op was going to survive in today’s world, it was going to have to grow,” said Tom Hauschel, Heartland Co-op CEO. “We realized change was necessary for us to compete in the increasingly challenging marketplace.”

Since the early days of the 1900's, Central Iowa farmers knew they needed a place to market their grain for a fair price.  Now, over 100 years later, Heartland Co-op has evolved into the cooperative it is today with 63 locations with operations in grain handling and marketing, fertilizer and application, agriculture chemicals and application, livestock feed and processing, agriculture energy products and propane.                                 

At each benchmark during the past 100 years, Heartland looked at the future needs of its members and chose growth over stagnation. The old, original elevators served the needs of those turn-of-the-century farmers who unified in order to put some clout in their grain marketing. “We're still doing everything we can to give Heartland-area farmers a voice in the future of agriculture amongst the growth that was attributed to our success,” Hauschel said.

Heartland believes in differentiating themselves from the competition by providing unique, value-added and innovative solutions to customers. Currently they serve more than 5,300 members and conduct business with them and others in one of the 63 communities across the state of Iowa.

The "original" Heartland Co-op was formed in 1987 with a merger of three cooperatives with facilities in Panora, Dallas Center, Minburn and Granger.

The Heartland Co-op that exists today was formed in 1993 with a merger of the "original" Heartland Co-op, Alleman Cooperative Company, Mitchellville Cooperative, and the facilities previously owned by Avon Grain Company at Carlisle and at East 18th Street in Des Moines. According to Hauschel, 17 mergers and acquisitions have occurred since 1993 creating the nationally recognized cooperative they are today.

A merger in 2007 truly changed the dynamics and earnings of the cooperative. “It gave us much better market arbitrage, asset utilization, access to capital, purchasing power, operating efficiency and much more,” Hauschel said. “All of those elements coming together improved cash flows and allowed Heartland Co-op to make meaningful improvements to serve the members.”

In addition to increased earnings, Hauschel said mergers have allowed their cooperative to attract and retain top-end talent. The ability to draw the attention of very talented people is a tremendous advantage. People will make a significant difference in returns to members while allowing the cooperative to be competitive in the market place, he said.

For Heartland members, growth has created a more viable, sustainable cooperative system. In addition, Hauschel believes it gives them better purchasing power and the ability to make meaningful improvements at their locations for better member services including speed, space and equipment. “We spend more money at an individual location than the prior cooperative had for a capital budget 10 years ago,” Hauschel added.

The geographic diversity has benefited Heartland as well. “You aren’t so reliant on one location,” Hauschel said. The western region of Heartland had record yields this past year while the northern footprint had one of the worst years in history. “Not having all the eggs in one geographic basket spreads out the cooperative’s risk,” he said.

Many of the earlier mergers were economically driven for Heartland Co-op. Hauschel added the board then witnessed and saw the difference in customer service, earnings and the difference in the talents they hired. “They continued to see all of the things we were missing before because we were too small or didn’t have the capital to be a competitive partner to our members”, Hauschel said.

According to Hauschel, a fear regarding growth of Heartland members has been there will be no competition. But in today’s market place, he said there is no lack of competition. “The bigger fear would be not having a viable cooperative system for the future,” he said.

While growth and change have been two constants for many other cooperatives across the country, mergers, consolidations and acquisitions have not been a strange occurrence for cooperatives throughout Nebraska and Iowa. In 1994, Iowa had 256 cooperatives. Today, they have 59 cooperatives. There are 55 agricultural cooperatives across Nebraska today.

Hauschel said there have been many changes as they reflect upon the past of Heartland Co-op. “We expect the trend of growth to continue, but growing with a purpose is more important than ever.”

Editors note:  MKC was formed in 1965 through a merger with of three neighboring cooperatives in Moundridge, Buhler, and Groveland. Just like Heartland Co-op, MKC has grown in size and territory through mergers and acquisitions since it founding. Most recently in a special meeting on Thursday, March 6, the membership of Farmers Cooperative Association approved a merger with MKC in an overwhelming 91% vote of approval. The merger will take effect June 1, 2014.


Caring for Our Communities

By Kerry Watson, Director of Communications

Concern for the community is one of the seven principles of the cooperative system.  For MKC, it’s much more.  “We believe our donations, participation in community events and the number of hours employees donate back to their communities through volunteerism is what keeps our communities strong,” states Dave Christiansen, President and CEO for MKC.  “It’s about keeping our rural communities viable for future generations.”

Recently MKC donated to the City of Inman, McPherson County Sheriff’s Department and the Moundridge Fire Department.  The donations helped the City of Inman with the completion of the interior on the new Community Building and the purchase of safety equipment for the McPherson County Sheriff's Department and Moundridge Fire Department.

According to Jim Toews, Mayor for Inman, the new building replaces the shelter house built in 1959 as a community project.  “We are very appreciative of MKC’s support,” stated Toews. “This contribution will help with the purchase of tables and chairs and other interior finish work.”  The new building will have the capacity to hold 250 people and has already been secured for a number of large events not previously held in Inman.

Dean Scott, McPherson County Sheriff’s Department Sergeant and SWAT Team Commander was very appreciative of MKC’s donation to help with the purchase of a mobile surveillance unit.  “A device such as this will allow our officers to monitor a high-risk situation from a distance,” he said. “This will be very beneficial to the safety of our officers and the public.”
The donation to the Moundridge Fire Department assisted with the purchase of a K12 Vent Saw. The saw is used to cut vents in a roof, allowing smoke to escape from the structure. 

Land O' Lakes matched the contributions to the Community Building in Inman and the McPherson County Sheriff's Department.  Over the past five years, MKC has donated more than $300,000 to communities throughout central Kansas with the majority of the donations going to programs that focus on alleviating hunger, leadership development, ag education and community safety. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Helping Farmers Manage Risk

By Nichole Gouldie, Communications Specialist

Risk is an unavoidable element in the business of agriculture. Production can vary widely year to year due to unforeseen weather and market conditions, causing wide swings in commodity prices. But risk, while inevitable, is often manageable.

Following a storm this past June, McPherson area farmer Dennis Friesen saw green snap damage like he had never seen before. After the area received 80-90 mph winds, he soon discovered the risk management decisions he had made with TMA and MKC were bound to improve his return on his investment.

After looking over his fields following the storm, Friesen immediately called his TMA Crop Insurance Specialist, Danny Flynn. Within three days, the totaled corn field was chopped and a short-season corn was planted. “Very quickly Dennis was able to collect insurance, protect his revenue and pursue another crop,” Flynn said.

Once he received word the corn crop was 70 to 80 percent damaged, Friesen worked with Dusty Campbell, TMA grain marketing specialist, to make sure he would be okay on his marketing strategy.

Danny Flynn, crop insurance specialist for TMA, discusses
risk management strategies for 2014 with Dennis Friesen.
TMA provides producers with a multitude of risk management offerings that can be customized to fit their operations. The array of risk management strategies available to producers allows the opportunity to place their attention on making buying and selling decisions based off timing and profitability instead of price.

“There are a number of tools available and widely used to manage the economic, structural and environmental risks of farming,” said Devin Schierling, TMA grain marketing manager.

Schierling says the local cooperative plays an integral role in assisting customers manage their crop input risk, just as the TMA specialist focuses on maximizing revenue through grain marketing and crop insurance decisions.  “This approach allows our producers to focus on the timing of their marketing decisions,” he said.

“Depending upon their needs, producers will have the ability to manage their farm’s risk in multiple crop years by using traditional forward cash contracts, option based contracts, and over-the-counter contracts,” Schierling said. “TMA provides producers with a multitude of risk management offerings that can be customized to fit their operations and grain contracts as the vehicle to help them maximize their revenue potential.”

Although farms vary widely with respect to crop mix, financial situation and other business, timing and looking at trends is the most important part of creating a successful risk management plan. Schierling encourages producers to focus on their farm as an enterprise to allow them to make decisions based off revenue and not from an individual price perspective.

While producers often take the steps necessary to manage their risk, there are times when it certainly pays off and the producer learns first-hand just how important managing risk is to their operation.

Friesen stated it was reassuring to have the specialists there to help make sure he was taking the appropriate steps to make the insurance claim correctly.

“Dusty and Danny worked together, and we worked with Jared Jones right away to check availability of seed,” Friesen said. “I won’t find this type of customer service with other companies.”

While crop insurance is the most ubiquitous risk management tool used by farmers - 86 percent of total planted acres in 2012 were insured – there are other tools many farmers use as well.

“Agricultural practices, marketing and financial strategies are all critical in helping producers manage their risk,” said Jared Jones, MKC field marketer. “The TMA and MKC relationship provides numerous avenues for producers to manage their risk.”

The risk management services at MKC include programs such as MKC’s risk 12-month forward contracting on fuel, crop protection and nutrient products, and the double-crop soybean revenue program.

Friesen says he regularly works with TMA and MKC specialists to manage risk.

According to Jones, the moment a producer decides to plant, the risk management cycle begins. TMA and MKC work together to determine inputs, crop insurance and the ability to market grain.

Friesen stated risk management is a continuous cycle working with his insurance specialist, grain marketing specialist and field marketer. “It all works really well together,” he stated.

 “Every one of our producer’s definition of a successful risk management plan is different,” Flynn said. “Plans will change depending upon the customer’s operation but the focus is always on maximizing our producer’s revenue potential.”

Friday, February 7, 2014

Ag Organizations Partner to Save Lives

Over the past 50 years, more than 900 cases of grain engulfment have been reported in the U.S. with a fatality rate of 62 percent. In 2010, at least 26 U.S. workers were killed in grain engulfments - the highest number on record.  The most tragic of all: grain engulfments are highly preventable.

Nationwide Agribusiness Insurance company is partnering with Farm Safety for Just Kids, Iowa FFA Foundation and others to increase awareness of the dangers of flowing grain and bring visibility to safety procedures that can save lives through an annual Grain Bin Safety Week beginning February 23.

Timed to bring safety awareness to the dangers of grain bins prior to planting season in much of the country, the week-long event will highlight a different component each of the seven days including grain management, bin hazard identification, bin and equipment design, bin entry, working safely in a bin, extraction/rescue and confined spaces beyond the bin.

Highlights of the week include:
  • #AgChat on Twitter 7 - 9 p.m. CT, Tuesday February 25. (Be sure to include the hashtag #GBSW14 in your tweets.)
  • On Wednesday, February 26, Nationwide Agribusiness will host a free, live webinar on grain safety that is open to everyone. Farmers and commercial grain handlers will gain valuable insight into the risks and hazards of grain bins, safe-work procedures, OSHA standards and more. Reserve your spot now at
  • Win safety equipment and training for your local fire department. The contest runs from January 1 to April 30. nationwide Agribusiness and NECAS have partnered to provide grain entrapment rescue training and a bin rescue tube (valued at $2,600) to one nominated fire department or emergency rescue squad. Official rules are available at

Thursday, February 6, 2014

MKC Employees to Participate in National Wear Red Day

By Kerry Watson, Director of Communications

MKC employees will be adding a little color to their uniform on Friday as they
join others across the nation and wear red to help bring more awareness to heart disease. National Wear Red Day, held the first Friday of February each year, helps bring awareness to heart disease and its impact not only on women, but men as well.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Relevance - Standing the Test of Time

By Dave Christiansen, President and CEO
Regardless of what cooperative I happened to be serving at the time, it’s certainly been interesting over the years to pause and reflect on the relevance we possessed and to whom. The first time I recall listening to a discussion about relevance was in the mid-'70s when the co-op I was working for achieved record sales. That certainly seemed a big deal at the time and I recall our vendors treated us as such. As an employee group we took a lot of pride in what our relevance meant we could deliver to our customers. At the time, little did we know the bar to be considered relevant in the agricultural industry was beginning a very rapid ascent.