Tri-state cooperatives face busy harvest season

Benet Goldstein
Telegraph Herald

FARLEY, IA (AP) - While the work of agronomists and animal production specialists seemingly never ends, planting and harvest times always are the busiest, according to workers at local agriculture cooperatives.

These days, Bruce Ling, location manager at Innovative Ag Services in Farley, works 10- to 14-hour shifts, alongside seven other employees.

Mike Walsh takes a sample of corn at Premier Cooperative in Mineral Point, WI. Cooperatives in the tri-state region face a busy harvest season.

In addition to selling fertilizers, cooperatives allow customers to unload grain: beans and corn, the Telegraph Herald reported . The grain is tested and measured before being possibly dried and stored.

Some might be sold to companies to be ground for cattle feed or plants that utilize it in ethanol production.

"The other day, we took in 180,000 bushels," Ling said.

A typical semi-tractor trailer holds about 1,100 bushels, while tractors hauling grain carts can hold 1,300.

Vehicles are coming and going on busy days.

"They will go on our scale, see how much it weighs," Ling said. "We will probe it, take a sample out of it and test it for moisture. All of the grain is graded and tested for mold. . A lot of the stuff we'll buy. So, then our marketing department sells the (grain)."

Loads are positioned over a grating where the contents drop into a pit before being lifted and sorted into giant bins.

"It gets rather dusty in here," Ling said.

Staff at cooperatives throughout the tri-state region are racing "under the gun," said Ted Bay, a recently retired crops and farm management agent at University of Wisconsin-Extension in Grant County, Wisconsin.

Heavy summer rains delayed the harvest, he said.

Agronomists, who help cooperative members determine how much fertilizer to apply to fields for the following year's crop, cannot complete their work until fields are harvested.

They must do so before the soil freezes so farmers who wish to fertilize their fields can do so.

Ag workers "are out there doing whatever they can to help farmers finish up this year and get ready for next year," Bay said.

At Innovative Ag Services, semis constantly are pulling under a chute that deposits dry fertilizer into a trailer.

The loads are trucked to farms near Cascade, Farley, Manchester and Independence, where the pellets are applied to fields.

Things are no less busy at the Mineral Point, Wisconsin, location of Premier Cooperative's grain and feed manufacturing facility, which employs about 40 workers. The cooperative, based in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, serves more than 3,000 members, said CEO Andy Fiene.

"This time of year, there are days where we are running 24 hours a day," he said.

Kelly Maynard, outreach specialist with the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives, noted that farmers who are members benefit from using equipment cooperatives have purchased. That includes grain dryers, lifts and storage bins.

While some producers can dry their grain and sell it directly to wholesalers, others "drop it off at the elevator and those things happen for them," she said.