Magazine article Rural Cooperatives

Identifying 'Better Ideas' Helps MaxYield Co-Op Double Sales

Magazine article Rural Cooperatives

Identifying 'Better Ideas' Helps MaxYield Co-Op Double Sales

Article excerpt


Like the farm sector itself, Iowa's MaxYield Cooperative has had its ups and downs since its first stockholders met in 1915. But with plenty of local faith and investment, and support from various USDA programs, MaxYield Cooperative (previously West Bend Elevator Co.) and its 18 locations across northwest Iowa are on a healthy growth curve.

One reason for the recent, well-directed growth of this co-op, headquartered in West Bend, Iowa, is USDA's Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program. Under the program's 50/50 match rules, MaxYield received $30,500 in VAPG funding to study the feasibility for installing a methane digester. This was followed by $50,000 in additional VAPG money to study biodiesel production. (For more information on the VAPG program, visit: vadg.htm).

The two studies led to shelving the digester plan for now and continuing to pursue biodiesel retail sales, although holding off on biodiesel production. These decisions played a part in turning MaxYield's disappointing financial results during the 1990s into today's very healthy profits picture.

When the time is right--perhaps in another 10 years--MaxYield leaders say they will be ready to add methane gas to its mix of operations.

"The two Value-Added Producer Grants were instrumental in our decisionmaking process," MaxYield CEO Keith Heim explains. "The feasibility studies clearly showed that the time was not yet right for methane digestion here, and that we should continue to expand the biodiesel retail market share but hold off on entering into biodiesel production."

New solutions

Billing itself as "not your grandfather's cooperative," Heim says "we view ourselves less as a traditional input supplier and more as an entrepreneurial solutions provider, from organic nutrients to ethanol to precision agriculture. …

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