Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 12

TRAIN
MFA's new rail facility speeds harvest
by Jim McCarty | jmccarty@ruralmissouri.coop

H

arvest is barely underway in northwest Missouri, but a steady stream
of trucks beats a path down Highway 36. Heavily laden with grain, they
slow for a new exit just east of Hamilton and pull into a gleaming new
concrete and steel facility towering above the landscape.
MFA Inc.'s new rail facility is open and ready for business. Five years in the
works, the site offers speedy turnaround for patrons of the cooperative along
with the opportunity to reach new markets.
The trucks kick up dust as they pull into the facility. An RFID tag inside
the cab syncs with a computer inside the office where scale operators Kaitlyn
Skinner and Dakota Neill await their arrival. It will track the delivery all the
way through the facility.
Dakota works a lever that positions one of the two probes into the grain bed,
removing a sample for testing. Quickly the humidity is measured. Then Kaitlyn
grades the sample, looking for rot, mold, foreign material and damage.
Once the test is entered into the computer, the truck is directed to the scale.
From here it's on to the two dump pits, determined by the grade. Once the
truck is empty it moves forward to an outbound scale, where the computer
records the empty weight, calculates the price and spits out a ticket.
The driver leaves the cab only to uncover the trailer. From beginning to end,
it takes about seven minutes. The truck heads back to the field, ready to take
on another load from the relentless combines.
"So far it's been steady," says MFA Inc. Grain Originator Diana DeHart,
whose job is to keep grain flowing into the plant. "No more than eight trucks
at a time and that's been in the morning. Our biggest day was 150 trucks. But
harvest is not really going yet. We expect 300-plus trucks when it does."
Rising 170 feet tall at its highest point, the facility is an impressive sight. It
took 13,000 cubic feet of concrete and 2 million pounds of steel to build the
bins that can provide upright storage for 2.1 million bushels of grain. Another
1.5 million bushels can be stored on the ground.
The facility includes a 4,700 bushel-per-hour grain dryer that can move
moisture levels five points using propane from partner MFA Oil.
But this is not a place for grain to be kept for extended periods. The idea is
to get it in and loaded on train cars for shipment to markets around the U.S. or
exported to foreign lands. For this there are 14,000 feet of track, a giant model
railroad arranged in a circle and tied into the nearby Union Pacific main line.
The track can handle 110 jumbo rail cars without uncoupling, allowing
speedy loading. The entire train can be loaded in 8 to 10 hours. The goal is to
move a train through the facility every week.
From there it enters the rail system and can be sent
where demand for corn and soybeans is the highest.
For example, much of the corn is being shipped to the
southwestern U.S., areas such as Texas and Arizona
where livestock production is high but the terrain does not
Hamilton
lend itself to row crops. Soybeans for the most part are being
exported abroad, to China and Southeast Asia. Beans move
to St. Louis where the big river barges can take them to the
Gulf of Mexico. Trains also can make their way into Mexico
or to California and the Pacific Northwest.
"This began five years ago when we started to look at our
whole business on the grain side and where our opportunities and
challenges were going forward," says Mitch Dawson, MFA's director of grain.
"What we saw was an area where we had 20 of our own elevator facilities in one
area with really no access to outside markets other than by truck."
At the same time, he says, many northwest Missouri farmers were forced to
haul their grain to Kansas City, fighting heavy traffic in both directions. With
farm yields up and harvest equipment increasing in size, a serious bottleneck
developed that slowed the harvest. Delaying the harvest can mean a large loss
of revenue for farmers.

12

RURAL MISSOURI | DECEMBER 2017

Above: Grain pours into one of two pits at the MFA Rail Facility as Levi Ward keeps an eye
on it. Trucks can unload in as little as seven minutes. Below: Kaitlyn Skinner carefully grades a
sample of corn in the first stop at the facility. RFID tags track the loads through the plant.
"When you do anything new with
agriculture and grain you've got to
consider the speed of unloading as one of
the primary things you offer," Mitch says.
"Because their equipment, their combines
have gotten so big and can move grain
so fast. The farmer of today runs semis.
You've got to keep up with his pace as he
tries to get it out of the field. And if you
can't, he's going someplace that can."
When MFA Inc. made the decision to
build a rail facility - linking not just its
farmer-members but also the elevators
it owns to the rail network - it decided
to do it right. The planning was for the
future, not for present market conditions.
"This is definitely the most state-of-theart facility on the MFA system," says Jase
Lee, plant operation supervisor. "This is
the only shuttle loader that can do 110
cars in one shot. The others have to break
down the trains."
The site is at a crossroads where four-lane Highway 36 crosses the Union
Pacific tracks. Officials with Caldwell County welcomed the new industry, as did
Farmers' Electric Cooperative, which counts it as one of its largest loads.
The plant is drawing farmers locally from the Hamilton area but also
from a wide radius around the plant. Trucks have come in from as far
north as the Iowa state line, from St. Joseph in the west and Meadville
in the east.
The facility opened at the end of September, but some construction
continued into October. "As we've worked the kinks out we were
fortunate that the farmers still had a fair amount of grain from last
year that they hadn't moved," Mitch says. "We were able to get a pretty
good run of that before harvest had even been started."
Reaction to the new facility has been good, Mitch says. "It's been a heck of
a good start and we hope it continues going forward like it has started. It's a
combination that we needed for the farmers. It's got speed and capacity. Speed
to get him offloaded and capacity to hold his crop."
For more information about the MFA Rail Facility visit www.mfarailfacility.com
or call 816-465-4000.


http://www.mfarailfacility.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - December 2017

Contents
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - Intro
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - Contents
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 4
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 5
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 6
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 7
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 8
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 9
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 10
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 11
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 12
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 13
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 14
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 15
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 16
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 17
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 18
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 19
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 20
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 21
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 22
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 23
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 24
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 25
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 26
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 27
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 28
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 29
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 30
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 31
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 32
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 33
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Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 35
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 36
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 37
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 38
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Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 41
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - 42
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - December 2017 - Cover4
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