Search southeast Nebraska communities and beyond and there’s a good chance you’ll find one thing in common.
Farmers Cooperative has facilities in around 60 communities, and a heavy presence in Gage County.
The organization recently added to its reach when it purchased Southeast Nebraska Cooperative.
The transition happened in late 2014, and Dennis Kenning, sales and marketing manager for the Farmers Cooperative, described the transition as more of a merger.
He said the process was smooth, and better serves the farmers.
“I think with the merger with Southeast, things have been going pretty good,” Kenning said. “Cultural wise, we were quite a bit the same as far as our attitude. ‘Fairly conservative’ would be how I describe both of them before we merged together with Southeast.”
While the merger has gone well, Kenning added much of Farmers Cooperative’s success is dependent on how the farmers are faring.
“Commodity prices are lower, so that’s kind of affected our business a little bit,” he said. “Our business goes the way the farmers’ business goes, really. They’re in a position where they’re going to be tightening their belts, so they’re only really buying those things that are necessary. All their inputs are expensive and high.”
Farmers Cooperative is currently working on a $25 million project in Frankfort, Kan., that will be a loop system for loading rail cars.
Kenning said the project is Farmers Cooperative’s largest ever, and will ultimately benefit facilities in Gage County by taking pressure off them.
“It’s all in one unit and goes around and fills rail cars,” he explained. “One reason we’ve been successful is we’ve had access to the railways pretty good. It’ll be huge. We’re talking about having the building large enough to fill rail cars, so it’s going to have fairly large storage there.
“Last year, Jansen did 49 train loads. Those are usually 100 car units. It was like 20 million bushels out of Jansen, alone. That’s the other reason for building this, to take some pressure off Jansen, Plymouth and those.”
In addition to the development in Kansas, Farmers Cooperative recently expanded its facility east of Beatrice, where highways 136 and 4 meet.
Tony Hoffman, the co-op’s east region lead, said the expansion near Filley nearly doubled the building’s size.
“What we did was give us more of a shop area and another unload bay for liquid fertilizer,” he explained. “That gives us now a total of three bays we can load in, it gives it two bays to unload semis when they’re bringing in fertilizer, also. Before, by the time we got our in-season products in we pretty much were very full and didn’t have enough room.”
Hoffman added the ultimate goal of the expansion is to improve customer service.
Farmers Cooperative is regularly adding grain storage. Kenning said over 23 locations, 8 million bushels of corn was stored on the ground. Most of the grain has been removed from the ground, though more expansions and added storage are likely to better serve the area.
“It’s the farmers’ company,” Kenning said. “It’s their branch. We’re trying to make it localized because we think that’s important. People identify with their local branch.
“In some ways it doesn’t matter what the name is. We expect our customers to get good customer service, good products and that type of thing.”
Ultimately, Kenning said customer service is what the Farmers Cooperative strives for.
“Something that’s unique for us is because we’re a cooperative, we’re actually owned by the members that use our services,” he said. “ If and when we make money, we try to reinvest it back in the company. That’s why you’ll see us continue to put up storage and help our farmers.”
Reach Scott Koperski at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ScottKoperski.
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