Bottineau Farmers Elevator

Building on 76 years in the grain economy
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
Victor Martins

Grain elevators date back to the mid-18th century where the first was developed in Buffalo, N.Y. The invention worked almost seven times faster than its non-mechanized predecessors, allowing cities and towns to keep pace and further stimulate the rapid growth of American agriculture in the 1840s and 1850s.

Today, grain elevators are still playing an integral role in the country’s agricultural economic landscape, many of which have been in business through generations of farmers. In Bottineau, N.D., remains one of such elevators; the 76-year-old Bottineau Farmers Elevator (BFE).

Member-owned BFE has been running since 1938 and stands as a locally-owned affiliate of CHS Hedging LLC (CHS), a commodity brokerage subsidiary of CHS Inc., one of the nation’s leading cooperatives and Fortune 100 company dedicated to helping producers and cooperatives grow their businesses.

Local ownership, backed by national strength

CHS is headquartered in St. Paul, Minn. with offices in Kansas City, Mo., and Indianapolis, along with branch locations in 25 states that serve as partnerships with local cooperatives, such as BFE. CHS serves farmers, ranchers and commercial agribusinesses in the U.S. and Mexico as a futures commission merchant registered with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the National Futures Association. The company is also a clearing member of the Minneapolis Grain Exchange and the CME.

With locations in Souris and Westhope, N.D., BFE is a full-service cooperative providing a complete line of grain market, agronomy, seed, fertilizer, feed, crop protection and additional products and services that support this core business.

“As a branch office for CHS we also support our customers with risk management through the futures and options market,” shares Wayne Johnson, general manager of BFE. “We also own a gas station and agronomy center and we’re constantly adding to the lineup.”

Strategic growth

Both 2012 and 2013 were big years for $75 million a year BFE as the cooperative construction a 12,000-ton dry fertilizer plant, a new office building at the north end of its operations and completely revamped its grain loading system. BFE’s new fertilizer plant is located to the west of the recently built office building, along nearby BNSF Railway tracks.

The BNSF Railway is one of the largest freight railroad networks in North America, with 32,500 miles of rail across the western two-thirds of the U.S., and is one of seven North American Class I railroads. “Our shuttle train facility is something that sets us apart,” shares Johnson.

In addition to BFE’s strategic location, the upgrade from the 1,500-ton capacity plant to the 12,000-ton facility is a considerable move-up for the cooperative. Johnson says the new plant has been in the works since BFE moved to its new location. “The decision to construct a new plant has been in the making for some time, as farming practices have changed and more dry fertilizer is needed,” he explains.

The larger dry fertilizer plant will benefit farmers in more ways than one with a 250-ton blending tower, housing various fertilizers and micronutrients. The plant will also have the capability to be filled by either train or truck, adding to speed and product supply. “A plant this size has to be on rail siding to maximize the unit train price discounts,” says Johnson. “Shipments will come in via unit trains of 65 to 85 cars at a time.”

“We’re also adding a 600,000-bushel storage facility in Westhope,” reveals Johnson. “We’re building more storage for the grain dryer. When grain comes in wet in the fall it needs to be processed through the heated drying tower so there’s an effort to expand this. Pretty much every year we’re doing some kind of renovation.”

Bending and changing to demand

For BFE, it’s all about adapting to its customers’ needs and changing alongside an industry of constant transformation. Johnson says one of the biggest headaches for BFE is the reliability of rail service. “Sometimes we’re left waiting and when we’re trying to get product out the door it becomes an issue,” he reveals.

But overall Johnson says he’s impressed as the ag-economy holds steady. “The ag-farm economy is good in our region and I think it’s looking up all across the country,” shares Johnson. “At the end of the day, if our patrons are satisfied with the services we offer then we’re happy and we know we’re doing a job well done.”

That’s the same kind of satisfaction that’s keep Bottineau Farmers Elevator going strong and steady for the last 76 years.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Marcus Construction