Soybean Extruder Opens New Doors for Kansas Co-Op
Karg, Pamela J., Rural Cooperatives
Even large farms and organizations are finding they need to make changes to adapt to new market realities. Influences such as population patterns, transportation costs and weather trends were among the factors Cooperative Agricultural Services (CO-AG) in Kansas started to examine in 2001. This study eventually led the co-op to add a soybean extruder to its operations to produce its own feed and oil. This not only helps to boost producer income, it is helping strengthen the local economy.
"Farmers were aging and retiring, and the next generation was moving elsewhere for non-farm jobs," says CO-AG feedmill manager Mike Bucher. "We needed to make some changes to keep farming viable in our area and to keep the economic infrastructure that was slowly crumbling away." He worked diligently on the project to bring it to fruition.
Soybeans are a good clean-up crop after corn. However, corn requires more water than soybeans. With parts of the area experiencing nine years of drought, the Ogallala aquifer (the underground water supply) is showing signs of decline. Water restrictions make the future of irrigation here iffy, at best, explains Duane Cheney, coordinator for the Western Prairie RC&D Area Council.
"I think we all saw a need for a change," Cheney says. "Even though there's an ethanol plant just down the road, we needed an alternate crop to corn that required less water as well as a way to add value to what we were producing here. With the majority of the soybean crop being exported from the area for processing, we needed to add something that would keep the dollars in our community."
The cooperative has always transported its members' soybeans 300 miles to a terminal. It then hauled soybean meal from 400 miles away to meet the needs of cattle feedlots, corporate hog farms and large-scale dairies in northwestern Kansas and eastern Colorado, explains Bucher.
At a board retreat, he suggested adding a soybean extruder to make soy meal and oil. The cooperative had room in its existing Grinnell, Kan., feedmill, which made it easier and less expensive to construct, But more research was needed to determine if it was the right investment for the area.
The co-op turned to the Western Prairie RC&D for assistance, which eventually garnered the cooperative nearly $1. …