Agri Producers Inc.
Agri Producers Inc. (API) is a locally owned cooperative that has been serving the needs of farmers and ranchers in central Kansas since 1919. After a record wheat crop and strong sales in 2013, API faced a dry, challenging year No. 95. Yet, API managed to round out 2014 with a strong finish, making significant upgrades, including a 24-ton dry fertilizer tender in Gypsum, Kansas, one of the cooperative’s six locations.
Growing by acquisition
Based in Tampa, Kansas, farmer-owned API was incorporated in April 1919 as the Tampa Cooperative Association. “We’ve been serving area farmers and ranchers continuously since our inception,” says Stan Utting, general manager of API.
After the addition of several branch locations through the 1980s and 1990s, the cooperative was renamed API. “There have been four mergers over the years, from 1980 to 1982, 1984 and 1988, mainly caused by transportation issues and to utilize different rail rates and volumes,” explains Utting. “The farm crisis in the 1980s also made room for some consolidation for economies of scale through tough times.”
Utting, who recalls the days of hand-written notations over computerized systems, goes on to explain that API bought out two independent cooperatives in 1992. API is now 500 members strong and employs 44 people across six locations throughout Kansas; Tampa to Durham, Lincolnville to Herington, Carlton to Gypsum. “The six locations serve our 500 members, which are actually in a fairly small radius,” says Utting.
“We’re mainly a grain cooperative, but we do some corn, milo beans and fuel, as well,” shares Utting. API offers a spread of services, including planting, fertilizer and chemical, feed, fuel, animal vaccines and protection and more recently custom farming.
All of the right inputs for an efficient output
According to API’s spring 2014 newsletter, the past year was a big one for the cooperative’s custom farming crew with more acres planted, drilled and strip-tilled. Utting details this is a growing trend and desirable service.
“There seem to be more producers every year that realize custom farming can be a viable alternative to buying newer, bigger equipment and the considerable investment in time and labor,” he explains.
API provides the equipment, the operator and basically everything needed to get crops in the ground, but still allows some wiggle room. “Customers retain all of the decision making control over rates, timing, fertility and how they want crops planted,” explains Utting. “It’s a way of helping farmers get through the busy season.”
If custom farming is too inclusive, farmers can turn to API for more specific services, such as field scouting in early spring. API has expertise in ridding fields of resistant weeds with herbicide applications.
“Even if you work your fields black before planting you will be pleasantly surprised how much easier it is to keep you fields clean in season with a little residual herbicide applied early,” reads API’s spring newsletter. “Palmer amaranth, a resistant pigweed species common to our area, has been documented to grow at more than 2 inches per day, which is twice as fast as soybeans under good conditions. This leaves you very little time to control them after emergence since 4 inches is the maximum height that round-up will effectively control.”
A dry year and a hardy winter have put the strain on API and its members. “Weather is the biggest factor in production agriculture,” measures Utting. With wheat as the cooperative’s main crop, Utting says timing is everything.
In order to get the most tillering, API suggests a nitrogen top-dress application of 60 pounds per acre at green up, which will induce wheat tillering and hopefully increase the number of heads per square foot. “A second nitrogen top-dress could be made in April if the crop has responded with new tillers, this late application should impact the number of seeds per head and the seed size,” suggests the newsletter.
Going up at Gypsum
There’s a lot going on at API’s Gypsum location, from a new, state-of-the-art, 24-ton dry fertilizer tender to animal protection. During the calving season API Gypsum has everything from calf warmers to Colostrx, Entrolyte HE, Nursemate and Calf-Guard vaccines.
“We carry several different vaccination programs for cow-calf operations and stocker-feeders,” says Utting. “We try to keep plenty on hand for our customers when they need it.” API Gypsum also supplies fencing, from T-posts to barb wire, to stretchers and mending supplies.
Fortunately, diversity in service has helped API go on strong through good and bad. “Weather is certainly the biggest factor for us, but we’re also dealing with finding personnel and competing with jobs in the big cities,” adds Utting.
For any number of problems on the farm, Agri Producers Inc. has been a trusted solution for almost a century, supporting a solid member base in a changing agricultural landscape.