CHAMPAIGN — Members of the Rising Farmers Grain cooperative have approved a merger with Champaign-based Premier Cooperative.
The merger will take effect Aug. 1 and will bring Premier's total locations in East Central Illinois to 25 and its total grain holding capacity to 38 million bushels, making it one of the largest grain cooperatives in the state, according to Premier General Manager Roger Miller.
"All (Rising) employees will be moved into Premier, and the locations will be run as they are today," Miller said.
Rising Farmers has three locations: the original location on North Rising Road in Champaign, a location in Bondville and another in Mahomet. Together, all three locations hold about 2.85 million bushels of grain, according to Delmer Castor, the general manager. The co-op has 199 members.
Including the incoming Rising Farmers Grain members, Premier will have 3,300 stockholders as of next month.
The 68-year-old Castor said he has been planning to retire, and as a result, Rising's board earlier this year approached Premier about a merger. Premier's board approved the merger, then Rising Farmers Grain stockholders voted, with 90 percent in approval. Their stock will be transferred into Premier stock, Miller said.
"Premier has promised the transition is going to be as seamless as possible. All employees are intact. As far as drying and storage, our rates are pretty similar. ... We've just got to learn to answer the phone differently on Aug. 1," Castor said.
He plans to stay on for another year to see through the merger, and then retire.
"Rising is a very sound company. They have consistent earnings. Their facilities are in good condition and have been maintained," Miller said. Plus, the two co-op territories adjoin, but don't overlap, he said.
The merger will also open some additional markets for Rising members, Miller said. Its elevators currently ship grain via trucks and the CN railway, which runs north-south in Illinois. In addition to CN access, some Premier elevators have access to the Norfolk Southern rail line, which runs east-west.
Rising Farmers Grain started in 1963 at the Rising Road location in Champaign. Then, the elevator could hold 75,000 bushels (now it's 1.3 million). The Bondville and Mahomet elevators were added in the 1970s.
Premier Cooperative began in 2009 as a merger of Tolono-based Grand Prairie Co-op and Fisher Farmers Grain of Dewey.