Ray-Carroll County Grain Growers

85 years of providing services and benefits to members and customers
Written by: 
Tom Faunce
Produced by: 
Dana Merk-Wynne

As a full-service grain-handling cooperative, Ray-Carroll County Grain Growers has been providing the services and technical expertise to help local producers thrive for more than 85 years. Headquartered in Richmond, Missouri, customers count on Ray-Carroll for grain, agronomy, precision agriculture, insurance, energy and feed solutions. The cooperative manages additional locations in Brunswick, Carrollton, Corder, Hardin, Mayview, Norborne, Slater, Sumner and Wakenda, as well as a grain terminal in St. Louis, Missouri.

Founded in 1931, Ray-Carroll was built from wood, steel and the notion that local farmers could prosper by helping each other out. In 1934, the group purchased grain elevators in four central Missouri communities, including Richmond, Hardin, Norborne and Carrollton. The catalyst for establishing Ray-Carroll was when Congress established the Agricultural Marketing Act to establish farmer marketing associations and farmers across the country organized cooperatives to market their grain. When Ray-Carroll began, membership dues were set at $10 – a fee that remains unchanged to this day.

Ray-Carroll County Grain Growers

Ray-Carroll maintains a niche in the industry with its grain-handling operation, which has been a key focus of the company since its inception. The company maintains four shuttle-loading operations that connect with three Class-1 carriers to move grain east, south and west. “We also supply an alcohol plant with about 20 million bushels of grain per year,” says Mike Nordwald, general manager for Ray Carroll. “We’re also a founding member and investor in that plant.”

The members are the owners at Ray-Carroll. The company is governed by a board of 11 directors within its trade territory who are elected by Ray-Carroll members. These directors serve the cooperative for a term of three years.

A tradition of integrity

After 85 years in business, Ray-Carroll has established some of the most efficient bulk commodity-handling operations. With a single shuttle loader possessing the ability load a hopper car within eight to 10 hours, the company is able to minimize freight costs while maximizing returns. Ray-Carroll operates just like any private or public business. The difference being a co-op is that all of those involved and doing business with the company ultimately reap the benefits and returns on investments.

With precision-agriculture solutions, farmers are able to get the most from every acre. Ray-Carroll helps customers tap into the power of precision-agriculture technology with the Field Smart Technology (FST) program, which includes variable-rate fertilizer applications. FST also helps clients take advantage of other precision agriculture tools, including in-season imagery and yield maps, to boost full yield and profit potential.

While the majority of the services provided by Ray-Carroll are performed in-house, the company has established a strong reputation over the years, which has led to the formation of solid working relationships with key suppliers and vendors.

In a cyclical and seasonal industry such as agriculture, successful companies and co-ops find ways to weather the storm during difficult times. A constant obstacle for Ray-Carroll and many others is the continuous increase in government oversight, reporting and inspections. “We have more people inspecting us than people we have working for us,” says Nordwald. “It has really escalated within the past 10 years.”

In dealing with obstacles such as the recession, Ray-Carroll combats economic hardship by remaining efficient with its capital. “We focus our capital on assets that will produce in the future,” says Nordwald. “You have to run a professional company from start to finish. From training to safety programs, operations and management, it all plays a vital role in the success of the business.”

A successful formula

After 85 years, Ray-Carroll continues to expand and introduce new products and services. In 2014, the company added an additional shuttle-loading facility to its operation. The co-op also completed construction of a new fertilizer terminal. “This enables us to bring in unit trains of fertilizer and distribute that throughout northern Missouri,” Nordwald explains. “We’re continuing to grow and building new things every year.”

In Nordwald’s 30 years in the agriculture industry, 14 have been with Ray-Carroll. “This is the first co-op that I’ve managed,” shares Nordwald. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.” Nordwald remains optimistic about the future of Ray-Carroll as well as the Missouri agriculture industry. With the past two years presenting an upswing, grain and fertilizer companies have enjoyed elevated prices.

Ray-Carroll will enjoy continued steady growth as it moves forward based on the principles on which the company was founded 85 years ago. The company has remained involved in its communities, from supporting local organizations to funding scholarships. Ray-Carroll County Grain Growers is a co-op that is focused on providing its members and customers with high-quality products and services.

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