Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Getting the Grain on the Train

By Erik Lange, Vice President of Southern Operations

The 109-car train sits on the rail loop at the
Canton Rail Terminal.
On Sunday, December 28, MKC loaded our first shuttle at our Canton Grain Terminal.  The morning was sure a great morning to load our first shuttle as the temperature was slightly below freezing, the sun was shining and the winds were calm.

The 109-car train to be loaded pulled into our facility early Sunday morning as scheduled. The on-premise loop track has room for up to 120 boxcars at a time to carry grains farmers deliver to MKC to facilities in the Gulf Coast, Pacific Northwest and more. After BASF left the train, it was up to MKC to coordinate the whole train-loading process. When the empty shuttle train pulls into MKC’s rail loop, the locomotive is left there with the train.

Seven MKC employees and three employees from the Kansas Grain Inspection Service (KGIS) met onsite at 6 a.m. and held a 15-minute safety meeting to go over the plans for the day. After the safety meeting the group was out of the office on the chilly morning and undertook the first task of sealing the bottom hoppers of the 109 rail cars in our shuttle.  Because we want to guarantee the quality of our product and avoid losses of the grain in route to its final destination, we used numbered zip tie style seals and secured each hopper from tampering.  Each car has three hoppers so we used three seals on the bottom of each car. 

After just under an hour of sealing the bottoms of the cars, we maneuvered the train into position for loading the first car.  At approximately 8:15 a.m., we loaded our first draft into the first rail car. By 8:19 a.m. the first car, roughly 4,000 bushels of grain, was loaded.  This is where we hit our biggest glitch of our inaugural shuttle load.  When we went to advance to the next car, our software program had some settings that were not quite right.  But in under five minutes our computer software vendor had dialed into our system, changed the settings, and we were loading our next car.  After that, we loaded 108 more cars pretty much non-stop. Just shortly after 4 p.m. all 109 cars were completely loaded.

While this process sounds pretty simple so far, there is a lot more going on behind the scenes to get the cars filled.  The first part to a successful shuttle is knowing what you have where in your elevator.  As we filled the elevator with sorghum (milo) earlier this fall, every load was carefully graded for quality.  Specifically, different moisture and test weights were divided into different bins.  Additionally, any other factors that would result in less than a #2 sorghum was isolated into a blending bin separate from the ordinary sorghum. 

The next step in successfully loading the shuttle was to know exactly what the end customer is wanting.  Once you know what you have and what the customer wants, you have to figure out how to blend the commodity out of your facility.  In the case of this specific shuttle, we had seventeen different bins of sorghum to choose from to meet our customer’s needs.  When you are moving grain at over 60,000 bushels per hour into the rail cars, a small misjudgment of a blend can result in a big mess in a big hurry! (For example, if we would run grain for just one minute at the wrong blend we would have over 1,000 bushels of grain, slightly more than a standard semi-truck load of grain that does not meet the customer’s specification!) 

During the entire shuttle loading process, one employee is dedicated to running the elevator and adjusting the blend to make sure the grain stays on specification.  This employee is responsible for communicating with the employees from KGIS as well.  At our Canton Rail Terminal, this employee can control the blending at one of three places through our state of the art automation system used to control the facility - the main office, the truck unload control area/KGIS grading room, and the rail load-out control room.  This allows the employee to move throughout the facility and do their job and other tasks throughout the entire shuttle.  Primarily, this employee works from the truck unload control area as it makes communication with KGIS easy.

When the employee running the blend starts the grain stream, it flows out of the bins into a mixture of four possible grain legs elevating the grain into what is called the top garner.  If all four legs were utilized at 100 percent, the grain could flow as quickly as 100,000 bushels per hour into the top garner.  The top garner is roughly a 7,000 bushel bin that holds the grain until it can be weighed in the scale.  At this point, the employee responsible for loading the cars controls the entire process.  This employee sits in the rail loading control room and through the automation system has access to the scale controls and the elevator controls. This person also has radio communication with the person operating the train engine and the employees opening and closing the car lids.  Based upon this employee’s judgment, the entire process starts and stops.  This person works with the person operating the locomotive and instructs them on how far forwards or backwards to position each specific car.

As each specific car is pulled into place, a radio frequency identification (RFID) card on the specific rail car is read by the automation system.  This RFID card identifies the rail car to the terminal’s computer and pre-loads the net allowable weight of the specific car into the scaling system.  This allows the operator of the loading system to not have to enter any information about the car or the weights and saves a significant amount of time scaling the car. Once the car is in the correct place under the load out spout, the process of weighing six independent drafts of grain to fill the car begins. 

Kansas Grain Inspection Service staff are
onsite the duration of loading the shuttle.
The draft process is a very fast way of continually flowing grain into each rail car without having to shut the grain off in the elevator.  As the grain flows into the top garner bin from the legs, a hydraulic gate separates the grain in the top garner from the scale.  When the draft starts, the hydraulic gate opens and allows grain from the top garner to flow into the scale at over 10,000 pounds per second.  At approximately 30,000 pounds, the hydraulic gate begins to close automatically and once the scale has stabilized the draft is weighed.  Once the weight is recorded, a gate on the bottom of the scale opens automatically and the grain leaves the scale at over 10,000 pounds per second into the bottom garner.  Next the weighing process begins again.  Between the scale and the bottom garner there is also an automatic sampler set on a timer which is evenly pulling a representative sample at predetermined intervals.  These samples are then pneumatically conveyed to the KGIS lab for official grading. 

MKC employee  John Gagebein and Tracy
Spencer oversee the loading of milo atop of
the cars fastened to safety equipment
The bottom garner is the last step before the grain leaves the elevator through the rail loading spout into the rail car.  The bottom garner can hold two drafts.  If two drafts are in the bottom garner, the automation system will weigh a third draft and hold it until the bottom garner has enough room to hold the next draft.  If for some reason the car cannot be loaded for some time, there are sensors in the top garner that will automatically shut grown flow from the elevator off if a certain level is reached.  The elevator operator and the rail loader operator can both slow down or shut of the grain flow manually using the automation system.

At the bottom of the bottom garner is one last hydraulic gate manually controlled by the rail loader operator and can be opened or closed at any time to evenly fill the car as it is pulled through by the locomotive.  If all goes right, this process takes three to four minutes.  In those three to four minutes, 4,000 bushels of grain or about 224,000 pounds of grain has been moved from the elevator onto a rail car!

Gagebein closes the lids and attachees seals to
provide security for the cars being shipped.
As each independent car is pulled through, a MKC employee opens the lids of the cars as they approach the load out spout.  On the back side of the load out spout is a second employee closing the lids and attaching another three seals to provide security to the grain that has been loaded.  These two jobs are probably the most physically challenging as well as the most dangerous in the whole operation.  Both of these employees are tied off from above to the fall protection equipment to protect them from falling off the railcars.  These jobs are made more challenging as the train typically does not stop moving throughout the loading process so they are often working from a surface that starts and stops continuously.

The last employee on the crew is the locomotive operator.  This person has a critically important job of listening closely to commands from the rail loader operator and the rest of the crew to steadily move the locomotive while at the same time not being able to see what is happening at almost a mile behind them. 

MKC employee, Emily Jackson, was the conductor for the
inaugural load of grain shipped at our rail terminal in Canton.
When the team was all done loading the train, we parked the train as delivered and the railroad picked it up as they are able. Completed, MKC sent 400,000 bushels of sorghum to the Texas Gulf on our inaugural shuttle

While our first shuttle loading experience at MKC went very smooth and was completed in a very reasonable amount of time, there is always room for improvement.  Our goal is to make some small, easily controlled changes on the next shuttle, measure the effects, and then either adopt them or try additional changes with the final goal of any changes resulting in improving employee safety, improving employee efficiency, improving shuttle load time and providing additional profitability to our customer owners. The Canton Rail Terminal will continue to open up great opportunities and possibilities for MKC and our customers.


Friday, December 26, 2014

Helping Those in Need this Holiday Season

By Kerry Watson, Director of Communications

It's unfortunate to know there are people in our rural communities struggling to
meet the financial demands of day-to-day life. The unexpected need for a new coat or a parent's stress of wondering if their young child will get to experience the joy of opening a present at Christmas can be overwhelming.

Members of the MKC Community Involvement Committee helped eliminate some of this stress for nearly 400 families through their annual "Share the Warmth" and "Angel Tree" programs.

Started three years ago, the annual coat drive, "Share the Warmth", is held each October just as temperatures start to drop. Thanks to the generosity of employees, customers and community members, this year's coat drive netted 250 gently used and new coats. Caps, gloves and scarves were also collected.

MKC's Angel Tree program was also started three years ago. According to Kaila Armendariz, member of the Community Involvement Committee, 150 children ranging in age newborn to 14 years old were adopted by employees.

"The generosity of our customers and employees has been amazing," stated Armendariz. "It feels good to give back to our communities, helping those in need."

The Community Involvement Committee extends their appreciation to everyone who contributed to these projects.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Five Tips for Winterizing Heavy-Duty Diesel Engines

With cold weather upon us, learn what steps you should take to prepare your vehicles for winter.
 
Tip 1: Treat the fuel.
When preparing your fleet or ag equipment for winter, one of the most commonly overlooked items is the fuel itself. Fuel needs to be winterized, especially if the equipment will be used throughout the winter.
 
Paraffin wax is present in all diesel fuels as a natural lubricity agent. Like any wax, as the ambient temperature of the fuel drops, the wax begins to form large square-shaped structures. These can come out of suspension and cause fuel to gel, which clogs the fuel filter.
 
To prevent gelling, use a cold-flow improver (CFI) that includes de-icers and wax anti-settling agents, which extend the operability of the fuel. But don’t overtreat. Additional treatments of CFI are more likely to inhibit the fuel’s performance than help.
 
A second option is to use a diesel fuel specially formulated for low temperatures, such as Cenex winterized premium diesel fuels. Cold-flow improvers, de-icers and wax anti-settling agents are included in the additive packages for these fuels.
 
Tip 2: Drain the water separator and replace filters.
Water in the fuel system can reduce engine performance and damage components like fuel pumps and injectors. Avoid these issues by replacing water-absorbing filters and draining the water separator regularly. Fuel gelling can be an issue, but it’s water turning to ice in fuel storage tanks and filtration that typically plugs filters during the first couple of cold snaps.
 
Fill fuel and hydraulic oil tanks full to prevent condensation from forming during temperature and humidity changes.
 
Tip 3: Check the coolant system.
Regular preventive maintenance will reveal any issues before they become major problems. Check for radiator leaks, plugged or hardened hoses, and cracked belts. Tighten any loose hose clamps. Check coolant levels and antifreeze strength.
 
Tip 4: Prepare the Battery
Old Man Winter can drain batteries quickly. If a battery is close to the end of a typical 48- to 72-month cycle, replace it. Clean battery terminals and be sure connections are tight. If equipment will be stored over the winter, disconnect battery ground cables to prevent battery drain.
 
Tip 5: Clean and inspect the exterior.
Use a high-pressure washer to remove dirt, dust and residue, and grease unpainted metal parts to protect them from the elements. Then apply a wax to the surface, which will help repel snow, salt and road chemicals. Use a lanolin-based spray-on protectant to prevent rust and corrosion.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Safety Counts

By Kerry Watson, Director of Communications

One thousand, eight hundred forty-four. Two thousand, one hundred two. Customers and employees approaching the facilities in Groveland and Moundridge can’t help but notice these numbers. They are proudly displayed at each location and are placed so anyone entering the facility will notice the number of days the location has worked without a lost-time accident.

"We stress safety in everything we do," states Nathan Eck, senior location manager at Groveland. "Whether it’s climbing in and out of a spray rig, entering a grain bin, or ensuring the sidewalks are free from snow and ice, the safety of our employees and our customers is our number one priority."

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Now's the Time to Sample Fuel Tanks

Properly sampling of fuel tanks is essential to protecting your diesel equipment investment. It's a good idea to sample your tanks at this time of year, so you can take care of any moisture and contaminant issues before the falling temperatures cause major disruptions. With the CHS fuel testing kits available at MKC, you'll receive a valuable lab report that outlines any fuel quality issues and provides problem-solving advice.
 
We recommend using a tank sampler kit with a portable hand-operated vacuum device because this method collects more accurate samples than using a water-finding paste. We offer trouble-free kits that are designed to help prevent spills and will work on any size vehicle, underground or above-ground tanks.
 
When pulling a sample, remember the majority of contaminants settle at the bottom of the tank - so it's crucial you pull samples from the bottom. Also, be sure to thoroughly clean and dry the jar and hose after each sample is taken.
 
As you gear up for winter, contact MKC's energy division at 888-442-0141 to order kits or request help with sampling.



Monday, October 27, 2014

It's More than Just a Telephone - Technology Continues to Change How We Do Business

By Nichole Gouldie, Communications Specialist
What quacks like a duck and tells you when MKC is leaving your field?

That would be an MKC customer’s cell phone.

While your phone may not quack like a duck, you can receive notification within minutes of when MKC completes your customer application order.

Last August MKC launched the customer notification system. The first of its kind, this system brings a new level of communication to MKC customers. Using an electronic tabloid in spray rigs, rig drivers use technology to notify customers via email or text message letting the producer know their field has been sprayed.

Recently, Ryan Patrick received a text message from MKC notifying him his milo field scheduled to be sprayed was complete. Patrick, who operates a diversified crop and cow-calf operation near Lindsborg, recalls working in their shop fixing equipment that was down when he received the text message.

“It’s convenient to receive these notifications,” Patrick says. “Especially when you aren’t around the day your field is being sprayed, you know the job got done. It is especially beneficial when I am trying to plan other jobs that need done on the farm instead of waiting and wondering exactly when my field got sprayed.”

According to Shane Eck, senior location manager for MKC, more than 500 producers are currently signed-up for the electronic notification. Eck commented the system eliminates the producer having the unknown of their spray order.

McPherson County producer Larry Dahlsten appreciates the promptness of the notification system. “I don’t have to wonder if my spraying got done today or tomorrow, or take the time to drive out to the field to look for tracks,” he says.

For Dahlsten and Patrick, a partner and source of expertise in technology is MKC. “The application notification system is one more way MKC is providing efficiencies and expertise using technology for its’ customers,” Eck says.

Patrick is the first to admit technology isn’t at the top of his list of priorities. “I still have a flip phone,” Patrick chuckled. “I leave being up-to-date in the area of technology up to the co-op.”

Today, the cell phone is more than just a telephone for Dahlsten. He uses it for markets, weather, communicating via text message and much more.

“It isn’t always easy to learn [technology] but it has a lot of benefits,” Dahlsten says. Dahlsten tries to keep up with the technology the younger generation uses and he laughed as he admitted it is difficult at times. Besides the application notification system through MKC, he uses precision ag and enjoys staying up-to-date through MKC’s Facebook page.

“Most producers, regardless of size, see the benefit in using technology,” Eck added. “The customer notification system is just one more way MKC is enhancing the customer service experience for our customers.”

The equipment has not yet been installed at MKC’s northern locations including Alta Vista, Onaga, Westmoreland and Manhattan. Customers in these areas can plan to see this technology offered from MKC in the near future. To sign-up for notifications, contact your field marketer or nearest MKC location.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Enhancing the Overall Customer Experience

By Dave Christiansen, President and CEO

How to enhance the overall customer experience is one initiative that continues to rise to the top in our strategic planning sessions now held twice a year. Initially, the challenge with an initiative like this was creating a clear definition that would be actionable. First it meant we needed to make certain our company was easy for our customers to do business with. Secondly, when the customer did do business with us, they would be left with the feeling they selected the right partner.  

One of the challenges to executing an initiative like this is we have to be willing to challenge virtually everything we are doing today, regardless of how well we think we are doing.  We must go to our customers and ask the terrifying question, “How well are we doing?”  Only then, and only if we really listen, can we get the information that will lead us to start making the changes customers say will set us apart from everyone else who is wanting their business.  

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

October is National Co-op Month

Do you remember why you chose membership with your local cooperative? It may be among many reasons shared by 130 million people who have also chosen cooperatives, but it most likely has something to do with the common philosophy of people helping people.

Cooperatives have a rich and diverse history in the United States and around the world. Ben Franklin is credited with bringing the cooperative enterprise to America in 1752 when he and fellow Philadelphians founded the first mutual insurance company in the country.

Cooperatives operate across all sectors and include agriculture, food distribution and retailing, childcare, credit unions, purchasing, worker-owned, housing, health care, energy and telecommunications cooperatives.

Despite their diversity, co-ops are guided by shared values and principles including democracy, self-help and social responsibility. They exist to serve their members, and that level of service remains high even during even the toughest times. Instead of issuing stock or paying dividends to outside shareholders, co-ops provide value to their members through their level of customer service and membership checks at the end of each year.

According to the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA), there are nearly 30,000 co-ops in the U.S., serving more than one in every four Americans. Around the world, an estimated 1 billion people are members of co-ops.

"Every day, MKC works to demonstrate cooperative enterprises build a better world," states Dave Christiansen, MKC’s President and CEO. "Not only do we provide product and services to help our members succeed, but we believe we are helping to strengthen our communities through our people, jobs, services and community involvement."

As part of the month-long celebration, MKC hosted a coloring contest for kindergarten through 4th grade students. Fifty-six schools received a packet from MKC containing a supply of coloring sheets and information on the cooperative system to use as education tools in their classrooms .
Prizes will be awarded to 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners in each age group. Winning entries will be posted on www.mkcoop.com and featured on MKC's social media sites throughout the month.  
 
 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Farm Safety for the Next Generation

By Melissa Woeppel, Communications Intern

There are so many adventures to be had when you’re a kid on the farm. But those adventures can come with risks.

According to Farm Safety for Just Kids, “one child dies every three days on a farm. Every day 38 kids are injured in an agricultural related accident.” In 2012, over 7,700 kids were injured on a farm.

To help keep youth safe and reduce these statistics, the McPherson County Farm Bureau and K-State Research and Extension McPherson County joined forces more than 15 years ago to host a farm safety day camp. The annual program raises awareness of safety hazards for youth ages 8 to 11 to learn more about rural dangers, specifically on the farm. MKC has helped sponsor this event for the past seven years.

While many youth are taught safe farm practices at home, farm safety programming reinforces the importance of safety. “As producers, we know we work in a hazardous environment. Even though we try and teach our youth to be safe, hearing it again from another person in their community may be
what is needed for the message to sink in and help keep them safe,” said Jonie James, agriculture and natural resources agent for McPherson County.

Eighty-three youth attended the 2014 day camp on June 12 at the McPherson County Fairgrounds. The program began with an accident demonstration and mock helicopter rescue. Following the demonstration, participants were able to look at the helicopter up close, which was the highlight of the camp for many.

Campers do not have to be children who live on a farm to benefit from the educational sessions, said James.

The seven, hands-on safety sessions included lessons on harvest, pesticides, electrical, PTOs and hydraulics, ATV and utility vehicles, fire, emergency and lawn equipment.

“Promoting safe practices for all ages on the farm is important to us,” states Kerry Watson, director of communications for MKC. “The McPherson County Day Camp is just one example of the programs we support. Most recently we teamed up with Nationwide Agribusiness and the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety to provide a grain bin safety program for producers, employees, and first responders.”

 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Renewing Our Infrastructure

By Nichole Gouldie, Communications Specialist

Recognizing the need for new locations and making upgrades to current facilities allows MKC to keep pace with the growing needs of the producer. As MKC has continued to focus on renewing infrastructure this past year, the cooperative has invested more than $16 million dollars across its trade territory.

Jon Brown, director of facility management for MKC, has overseen each of the projects. “Meeting our customers’ needs and improving the customer experience has been the driver behind these projects,” Brown says. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Participants Sought for New Leader Forum

By Kerry Watson, Director of Communications

MKC is entering its tenth year of sponsoring participants to attend the New Leader Forum, held in conjunction with the CHS Annual Meeting. This year’s event will be held December 3-5 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Over the course of the forum, participants examine in-depth issues and challenges facing cooperatives, agricultural and rural America, as well as learn ways to build their leadership skills to benefit their cooperatives and communities. Sessions feature top-notch professional speakers and agribusiness experts. The conference is geared towards individuals and/or couples, ages 25 to 45 years.

Since 2004, MKC has sponsored 89 participants. Ben and Tina Schrag of Canton attended the event in 2013. "For me it was a great educational experience," said Ben. "I learned how MKC fits in with larger cooperatives’ grain distribution, not only in the United States, but internationally as well." Schrag also commented on the value of networking with other MKC customers who attended the event. "I didn’t know them before attending the Forum and still keep in touch with them today."

If you are interested in being considered for participation in the 2014 New Leader Forum, please contact a field marketer or Nichole Gouldie at 620-345-4119.

2009 Participants
(Left to right): Matt & Daisy Friesen, Josh & Emily Regier and
Mike and Angie Maloney.

2011 Participants
Back row: Kent Nichols, Devin Sheriling, Jon Brown
Front row: Amber Brown, Katie and Derek Sawyer, Doug Graber and Aaron Vogts.
 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Legislative Staff Members Spend Day at MKC

By Kerry Watson, Director of Communications

In its inaugural Legislative Staff Day on August 15, MKC hosted five staff members from Kansas House and Senate offices providing a firsthand look at the breadth of services provided by MKC. The full-day event included discussions with MKC employees and a tour of facilities at Groveland and Canton.

"We know it’s critically important to host congressional staff so they can see up close the facilities and services we provide to our members and their constituents," said Dave Spears, vice president of marketing. "Staff members are often the first point of contact for the constituents of their members of Congress. This visit was a great opportunity for the staff to gain a better understanding of MKC and the cooperative system."

Mel Thompson, state agriculture representative for Senator Pat Roberts, noted having contacts in the industry is invaluable. "MKC is a class act. You’ve succeeded in the peaks and valleys," said Thompson. "Thanks for being a partner to serve your members and our constituents and representing agriculture."

 
Staff members attending the event included John Sachse and Judd Gardner with Senator Jerry Moran, Steven Howe with Congressman Tim Huelskamp, Rachel DeGarmo with Congressman Mike Pompeo and Mel Thompson with Senator Pat Roberts.

During the site tours, congressional staff gained a better understanding of how technology is used in the grain and agronomy industry.


Backrow (left to right): Ted Schultz with TMA, Devin Schierling with TMA, John Sachse with Senator Moran, Judd Gardner with Senator Moran, Steven Howe with Congressman Huelskamp and Dave Spears with MKC.  Frontrow (left to right): Kerry Watson with MKC, Rachel DeGarmo with Congressman Pompeo, Mel Thompson with Senator Roberts and Danny Posch with MKC.




 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Annual Meeting to Feature Bruce Vincent

MKC's 49th Annual Stockholders' Meeting will feature keynote speaker, Bruce Vincent, a third generation logger from Libby, Montana.

Vincent speaks throughout the United States and the world and often provides testimony on resource issues before Congress. He has been reported on by numerous publications and newspapers including The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post. He has appeared on "60 Minutes" and participated in radio shows, documentary videos and news broadcasts throughout the nation and in several countries.

During Vincent's career, he has been awarded the national Timber Industry Activist of the Year, the Montana Timberman of the Year, the Sylvan Award for service to the national timber industry, and the Public Service Award from the Association of Consulting Foresters of America. He is this year's Women in Agriculture "Keeper of the Tenth" award winner, recipient of the Agri-Women's 2007 Veritas Award, and has been inducted in to the Libby High School Hall of Fame.

The annual meeting is scheduled for Thursday, July 24, at the Bicentennial Center in Salina. Reservations for the event are requested by July 17.  Click here to register.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Mike Becker Seeks Election to MKC Board of Directors

Three positions on the MKC Board of Directors will be decided by a vote of the membership at the 49th Annual Stockholders' Meeting on July 24. Mike Becker is seeking election to represent District 2.
 
Becker is honored to be a candidate for the MKC Board of Directors. He and his wife, Sarah, own a diversified crop and livestock operation southwest of Lindsborg along the Smoky Hill River where the majority of their farm ground is located. They raise corn, soybeans, wheat and sorghum, with over half the acres irrigated. Their livestock operation includes 250 commercial cows and half-interest annually in 200 bred heifers which they develop, AI, calve and sell as pairs. Their grass is located in six counties so they travel long and hard.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Duane Johnson Seeks Re-election to MKC Board of Directors

Three positions on the MKC Board of Directors will be decided by a vote of the membership at the 49th Annual Stockholders' Meeting on July 24. Incumbent, Duane Johnson is seeking re-election to District 2.



Johnson operates a diversified dry land and irrigated farm located between Lindsborg and Marquette. The main crops raised are wheat, milo, soybeans and feed for livestock. He also has a cow-calf operation. Duane previously served as chairman of the Farmers Union Elevator board at Lindsborg, and on the MKC Board of Directors from 2000 to 2009. He was re-elected to the MKC Board of Directors in 2011. Other activities have included Farm Bureau board, township board, church board and 4-H activities.  He served as secretary on MKC's board of directors in 2006 and 2007, vice-chairman in 2008 and 2009 and served on several committees.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

MKC Hosts Dignitaries

By Melissa Woeppel, Communications Intern

MKC’s Manhattan location recently hosted Congressman Tim Huelskamp and Mr. Jack J.C. Yang, director general of the Taiwan Consulate for a round table discussion with members from the Kansas Grain and Feed Association, the Kansas Pork Association, Seaboard Foods and the Kansas Cooperative Council. Discussion centered on trade between Taiwan and Kansas and opportunities for improvement.

Following the roundtable discussion, MKC’s Vice President of Eastern Operations Darin Marti led a tour of the facility, explaining the benefits of the cooperative system. "We can’t offer our customers anything different except service, so our goal is to provide exceptional service," Marti stated.

The use of genetically modified organisms, GMOs, was also a topic of discussion on the tour. According to Congressman Huelskamp, "the approval process for GMOs in the United States is the most stringent in the world, ensuring the safest products."

Utilizing modern technology allows for safer and cheaper agricultural practices.

"We can’t continue to use technology from 30 years ago," Marti added. "With improvements in corn hybrids, we’ve learned how to grow corn better, which results in larger yields, safer products and a profit for the producer."

Congressman Huelskamp serves on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, the Small Business Committee, the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy & Trade, the Subcommittee on Health & Technology, and the Subcommittee on Contracting & Workforce. As an ambassador for Kansas agriculture, Congressman Huelskamp is excited about the prospects for growing the markets for Kansas products in other parts of Asia, including in Vietnam and Japan.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Service You Depend On

By Nichole Gouldie, Communications Specialist

All businesses, regardless of type, have one primary and common goal -- to serve and satisfy their customers. Satisfied customers are the number one indicator of business success. Likewise, a cooperative has one compelling purpose -- to meet the needs of its members and potential members. Without a focus on serving members and customers, why should a cooperative exist?

"After safety, our number one priority at MKC is customer service," said Jeff Jones, senior location manager at Haven. "No matter the size of the operation, each producer is important to our daily operations and deserves the same level of customer service as anyone."

Cheney area farmer Tarry Zerger is willing to put some miles on the truck to use
Jeff Jones, senior location manager at Haven, and
Cheney area farmer, Tarry Zerger, discuss Zerger's
needs for application and services.
the services at MKC, although he notes most times his services are delivered to his home when needed. "You can’t beat the customer service," he said. "My location’s knowledge and helpful attitude is always appreciated."


Zerger, a cattleman, row-crop grower and wheat grower, depends on the agronomy and energy services at MKC’s Haven and Castleton locations, as well as utilizing the CFA Input Finance Program and working with TMA for grain marketing. Zerger commented he isn’t the farmer in the area with the most acres but the employees at his local MKC location always take the time to go out of their way to help him.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Food Drive Nets More than 9,000 lbs

By Kerry Watson, Director of Communications

MKC employees Jeff Jones and Spencer Reames deliver food
items to the Reno County Food Bank.
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.

MKC employees joined together this past April to help fill the shelves of area food banks through their third annual food drive.  The drive netted more than 9,000 pounds of non-perishable food items.

"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."

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Input Finance Program Creates Win-Win Situation for Producers

By Nichole Gouldie, Communications Specialist

To help producers obtain the financing their operation needs, MKC in conjunction with the Cooperative Finance Association, Inc. (CFA), provide reliable financial products and services to its members for all of their fertilizer, chemical, seed and petroleum needs.

"CFA is a valuable tool for any cooperative member," said Keith Kincaid, co-owner of S&K Partners near Haven. "CFA is convenient, user-friendly and competitive to any financing program in the industry."

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

MKC Increases Investment Opportunities To Public

By Nichole Gouldie, Communications Specialist

Based on the success of the MKC investment program, the board of directors has voted to increase the amount of the investment opportunity for patrons of MKC. The program is currently open for investments.

“The financial strength and stability of MKC remains extremely strong and we are continually looking for ways to position ourselves well into the future,” said Danny Posch, MKC chief financial officer. “We believe the investment program truly provides a win-win opportunity for investors and MKC alike. By working together, we will continue to ensure we are in a position to take advantage of opportunities in the marketplace together with lessening the reliance on external funding sources to meet the working capital needs of the cooperative.”

There are two separate types of programs offered. The Certificate of Indebtedness program is a certificate written for a specified period of time. This program offers a 3.5 percent fixed interest rate on a three-year note, 4.0 percent fixed interest rate on a four-year note and a 4.5 percent rate on a five-year note.

The Demand Note program works much like a standard short-term investment account. Money can be transferred in and out of the account in a certificate that will each earn a rate of return that is very competitive in today’s marketplace. For the Demand Note program, the variable interest rate is currently at 2.5 percent and can be transferred or converted to a Certificate of Indebtedness.

Investors must be Kansas residents and an MKC stockholder. The limit of investment per investor is $300,000. Interest is paid annually on July 1 for both investment programs.

Interested participants of the investment program are encouraged to contact Laurie Thiesen, MKC accounts payable manager, at 620-345-4116 or lthiesen@mkcoop.com.

Monday, April 28, 2014

How will the New Farm Bill Affect Crop Insurance Coverage?

By Nichole Gouldie, Communications Specialist

After two years, the 2014 Farm Bill became a law on February 7. Also known as the Agricultural Act of 2014, the law is wide ranging but a common question on many farmers’ minds is how the new Farm Bill will affect their crop insurance coverage.

Recently, Team Marketing Alliance (TMA) hosted informational meetings for producers about how the farm bill actually affects the farm. With guest speaker, Kane Adams, regional marketing manager for Diversified Crop Insurance Services, TMA shared how they have the tools to help producers make an educated decision related to crop insurance included in the 2014 Farm Bill.

“Like TMA always does, they will work from your farm's history to determine your crop insurance needs,” Adams said. “It isn’t a one-size fits all approach.”

Effective for 2014, direct payments, the counter-cyclical payment program, ACRE program and the Sure Crop Disaster program will be eliminated.

“The 2014 Farm Bill’s commodity title requires producers to make an important decision related to crop insurance, whether to sign-up for one of two versions of the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program or the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program,” Adams said.

The decision is made for each farm enrolled with the Farm Service Agency. The choice of program is a one-time decision to be made by a deadline not set currently. Adams estimates this sign-up not to be until late fall-winter or early 2015.  “The decision cannot be changed during the five-year life of the 2014 Farm Bill”, Adams said. “This is why it is very important for all TMA customers to work with their crop insurance specialist to make an educated decision about the two programs that is best for their operation.”

For producers just now learning about these crop insurance coverage options, TMA Crop Insurance Specialist Danny Flynn says the positive is you don’t have to make a decision today about the programs. “We have some time to make the decision and TMA has the tools and knowledge to help you make this decision.”

To learn specifically about the ARC and PLC programs, click here.

Kane noted while federal crop insurance saw an increase in the budget of $6 billion, most areas of the farm bill were cut in dollars. The budget was reduced by $23 billion total with cuts of $9 billion in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commodity programs reduced by $14 billion and conservation lost $4 billion. He also commented food stamps and nutrition are nearly 80 percent of the 2014 budget.

Josh Roe, economist with the Kansas Department of Agriculture, has shared an overview of the 2014 Farm Bill and some of the impacts the bill will have. Click here for a fact sheet about the 2014 Farm Bill and here for a summary and impact of the bill put together by Josh Roe.

To learn more about crop insurance coverage or the 2014 Farm Bill, contact a TMA crop insurance specialist today.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Scholarship Recipients Announced

MKC is pleased to announce the recipients of its 2014 scholarship program. Ten
area high school seniors and eight college students have been selected to receive a $1,000 scholarship for the 2014-2015 academic year. Since 2008, a total of $45,000 has been awarded through MKC’s scholarship program.

More than 100 high school students and nearly 40 college students submitted applications. "The number of applications made the selection process difficult," said Nichole Gouldie, communications specialist for MKC. "By helping our local students pursue their educational goals, we are investing in their future, as well as the future of our local communities."

This year’s scholarship program was the first year to include a college-level age group. In addition, the dollar amount to high school seniors was increased from $500 to $1,000.

Scholarship recipients were selected based on academic achievements, honors, leadership, and school and community activities. Along with the application, students were asked to submit an essay addressing the value of the cooperative system.

High school students awarded scholarships are: Jacob Dailey, Canton-Galva High School; Justin Schmutz, Ell-Saline High School; Reece Hiebert, Goessel High School; Kristen Knackstedt, Inman High School; Trevor Smyres, Little River High School; Nicholas Meyer, Marion High School; Greg Schlickau, Pretty Prairie High School; Anneliese Reinert, Smoky Valley High School; Taylor Green, Southeast of Saline High School; and Savannah Sherwood, Southeast of Saline High School

College students awarded scholarships are: Nick Wineinger, Kansas State University; Austin Hiebert, McPherson College; Luke Snider, Kansas State University; Kristine Larson, Kansas State University; Spencer Yenni, Hutchinson Community College; Melissa Woeppel, Bethany College; McKayla Brubaker, Kansas State University; and Ashley Murrell, Elementary Education.

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.