2017-07-23 / Insight

‘We’re very connected globally’

Cooperative Elevator completes $2.4-million expansion in North Branch
BY NICHOLAS PUGLIESE
810-452-2601 • npugliese@mihomepaper.com


To keep up with the demand for storage space by Lapeer County-area producers, the Cooperative Elevator in North Branch recently added a 7,000-bushel grain dryer and a 10,000-bushel receiving dump pit that has vastly improved delivery and dumping times. 
Photo by Nicholas Pugliese To keep up with the demand for storage space by Lapeer County-area producers, the Cooperative Elevator in North Branch recently added a 7,000-bushel grain dryer and a 10,000-bushel receiving dump pit that has vastly improved delivery and dumping times. Photo by Nicholas Pugliese NORTH BRANCH — To say that agriculture is a significant industry in Lapeer County is an understatement. Home to approximately 1300 active farms, Lapeer County was built on the back of agriculture and the industry continues to be a source of revenue — and pride — for a vast number of citizens.

The Cooperative Elevator Co. plant in North Branch recently completed a $2.4-million expansion, adding a 7,000-bushel grain dryer and a 10,000-bushel per hour leg that has vastly improved delivery and dumping times for the Lapeer County farmers who make use of the facility on Huron Street. The Cooperative Elevator Co. facility is used by hundreds of farmers across the county for delivery and storage of the commodities they grow, like corn, red and white wheat and soybeans.

While similar facilities are colloquially referred to as a “grain elevator,” these sites are much more elaborate than that name implies, involving offices, storage facilities and weighbridges. As farmers deliver their crops to the Cooperative Elevator, they’re stored and eventually shipped for use all over the country and even internationally.

The facility also offers a relatively new program called the “Direct Ship Program,” according to Weindl. “We send trucks to the farmers, directly to their farms, they don’t have to worry about the time, or if they don’t have the staff to make a delivery,” she said. “(The farmers) love that.” The Cooperative Elevator Co., which added the grain originator position along with an agronomist position a few years ago, also constructed a new office space to accommodate the new staff. The facility has also partnered with Harmon Oil and Propane Co. to provide the North Branch area with petroleum products.

Farmers selling their crops in today’s agriculture market have to account not only for local price influences but changes globally as well that affect pricing. According to U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, agricultural commodity pricing can fluctuate because of drought in North Dakota or war in Asia, and anything in between. In 2012, a drought caused a spike in corn prices, but according to Weindl, because of the current strength of the dollar, another spike is less likely to occur. Prices have been down on average since 2014, but Weidl said that that is an indicator of the overall economy. “Our dollar is super strong right now, and we’re seeing a market rally brought on by the spring wheat harvest,” she said.

Global average daily price changes are locked in each day via the Chicago Board of Trade, one of the world’s oldest futures and options exchanges, taking into account weather, fuel costs, national and global conflicts, supply and demand and several other factors, and the rate a farmer might see one day could be higher or lower the next. “20 years ago this was very local,” said Weindl. “Now, it’s what’s going on in a global level.”

Despite the towering silhouette of the towers and silos of Cooperative Elevator looming over North Branch’s east side, Weindl said that the agriculture industry is often forgotten about. “People forget about this industry,” she said. Because of this, Weindl said Cooperative Elevator is a proud supporter of FFA programs in Lapeer, Sanilac, Tuscola and Huron counties. “We need growth and the next generation of farmers,” she said. “We like to be involved.” The Cooperative Elevator Co. sponsors scholarships for FFA and 4-H to encourage young people interested in the agriculture industry to pursue their passions. “We definitely want to encourage and support the next generation,” said Weindl.

Cooperative Elevator is owned by 1,115 farmer producers and has been in business since 1915. Cooperative Elevator is headquartered in Pigeon, and has plants in Akron, Bad Axe, Deckerville, Elkton Elevator, Elkton Terminal, Fairgrove, Gagetown, Pigeon, Ruth, Sebewaing, and Larimore, North Dakota.

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