More than just concrete silos

From testing seed to evaluating soils, cooperatives do quite a bit more than just store grain.

We recently talked with David Briggs, who is the CEO of WESTCO Cooperative in Alliance. He says cooperatives work hard to add value to a producer's portfolio. "As a cooperative, we are owned by our members," Briggs said. "There are about 400 communities in Nebraska that own different cooperatives. By serving the farmer through inputs such as fertilizer, fuel and seed, we become an extension of their farm. At harvest time, we receive the crops in, and add value back to the member."

Briggs says crop test plots are yet another example of how cooperatives help producers. "Many of our employees are scientists," Briggs said. "They are trained in agronomy, and through the seed test plots, we actually do a lot of research for the farmer for the different seed companies to help determine what varieties grow best, and then we play a role in helping farmers increase their yield. We also do a lot of precision agriculture. It's very important that we put the right amount of nutrients on the right spots on the field, and that we apply the chemicals correctly."

WESTCO Cooperative handles more than just corn and soybeans. They also play a large role in exporting dry edible beans. "Our cooperative has 3 different plants in the panhandle that we actually receive beans from the farmer, clean them, bag them, and ship them all over the world," Briggs said. "We ship a lot into the European Union, into Chile, and Turkey. By doing that, we actually bring value back to our members, not only in the price we pay on the board, but also as we make money on the beans we sell, we return that to the farmers through a patronage."

People may not realize just how many roles local cooperatives play across the state. "You think of a co-op, you think of the concrete silos. But, we do way more than that, whether we are delivering fuel or other inputs, we really are an extension of the producers' farm," Briggs said.