Since it was founded in 1903, the Farmers Cooperative has been working to serve area farmers as they navigate the changing agriculture industry.

With facilities in 60 area communities, the Farmers Cooperative helps reach farmers across southeastern Nebraska and northern Kansas.

Farmers Cooperative sales and marketing manager, Dennis Kenning, said that the cooperative has seen quite a bit of growth in recent years. While the cooperative is currently building a 400,000-bushel bin and putting in new scales in Virginia, several other changes and upgrades are also being added in Beatrice and in other communities around Gage County.

“Out at the feed mill, we are replacing a tank out there that would have liquid protein in it, and that’s a 10,000-gallon tank. So it’s fairly sizable,” he said. “We’ve added a ton of new trucks. This area has a new propane truck that was like a $140,000 investment. The feed department here has also added semi trucks, as well as straight trucks that needed to be replaced, and all of those, you’re looking at a cost of $100,000 to $150,000. They’re pretty pricey.”

The cooperative employs 114 people in Gage County alone, Kenning said, which allows Beatrice to offer all of the Farmers Cooperative services, including grain, agronomy, energy, feed, tire and lubricant services.

“We’re a full-service cooperative,” he said. “When you look at Gage County--all of those services are provided here, in some way, shape or form, out of Beatrice.”

Despite the new additions and positive changes, the Farmers Cooperative does face some challenges, Kenning said.

“I think prices is one of the biggest challenges,” he said. “I think the last few years, there’s been some producers that are just getting by. We’re really tied to the farm economy, more than people know. People kind of take it for granted. If they do well, communities do well. We’d love to see higher grain prices.”

Kevin Wittler, the Beatrice feed department manager, and Chris Schweer, the Beatrice feed plant manager, said that the Beatrice feed mill has seen a tremendous increase in prices within the last year. With the prices of 40 bulk ingredients and an estimated 500 other ingredients going up, the change affects people around the world.

“Agriculture is a worldwide thing,” Kenning said. “We’re really tied to the world. People don’t think about that. They think we live in our own local area, but those things are important.”