CHAMPAIGN — Premier Cooperative plans to expand its fuel division this year, with the aim of adding a bulk fuel facility at its Apex location west of Tolono, general manager Roger Miller said.
The cooperative currently operates a bulk fuel facility in the Ford County community of Elliott.
That facility was previously operated by Fisher Farmers Grain & Coal. But when Fisher Farmers merged with Grand Prairie Co-Op in 2009 to form Premier, the new cooperative lacked a fuel facility in the southern part of its territory.
"Our board decided to expand (the fuel business) into the entire footprint of Premier Cooperative," Miller said.
The fuel division, managed by Dave Kiefer, handles all standard fuels, including diesel, gas, kerosene and soy biodiesel, as well as lubricant oils geared to agriculture, construction and other commercial use.
To accommodate the expansion, Premier recently added three employees: Jay Warfel in fuel and lubricant sales, Mike Lubben in fuel and lubricant delivery and Garrett Bruns, who will work in both sales and delivery.
To establish the fuel facility at Apex, Miller said, "the first step is to go through the county and get the proper permits."
Other projects the Champaign-based cooperative has for this fiscal year, which runs through July 31, include:
— Installing a 750,000-bushel storage bin at the Fulls Siding facility 2 miles west of St. Joseph near U.S. 150. That would boost total storage there to about 1.1 million bushels.
— Installing new 5,000-bushel capacity dryers at its Broadlands facility in southeastern Champaign County and its Jamaica facility in southwestern Vermilion County.
— Making a rail upgrade at its Dewey facility in northern Champaign County.
Premier, which has about two dozen facilities in Champaign, Ford, Vermilion and Piatt counties, employs about 85 people, Miller said.
Farmer wins $5,000 for school, foundation
PHILO — Tolono farmer Thomas Kleiss has won two $2,500 donations from the "America's Farmers Grow Communities" program — one for St. Thomas Catholic School in Philo and the other for the Champaign County Extension Education Foundation.
The program, sponsored by the Monsanto Fund, gives farmers an opportunity to win $2,500 for their favorite local nonprofit organization.
But because Champaign County was declared a disaster area by the U.S. Department of Agriculture because of last year's drought, Kleiss was able to win two donations, totaling $5,000.
Altogether, the program expects to donate more than $5 million to nonprofits this year.
Other 2013 area winners and their designated nonprofits include:
— Douglas County: Debbie Duffle, Arcola Food Pantry and Hindsboro Fire Department.
— Ford County: Pamela Opperman, Piper City Public Library and Piper City Fire Department.
— Iroquois County: Judith Albers, God's Little Food Pantry and the Iroquois County Historical Society.
— DeWitt County: Dyke Shaffer, Blue Ridge Educational Foundation and DeWitt County 4-H Foundation.
— Edgar County: Peggy Barth, Compassionate Food Ministries and Shiloh Junior & Senior High School.
— Coles County: Jill Walker, Mattoon FFA Chapter and Coles County 4-H.
Winners in Piatt, Vermilion and Moultrie counties were Ronald Meece, Charles Melecosky and Michael Reedy, respectively, but their designated nonprofits had not been posted on the program's website.
Drought affects soybean quality
ST. LOUIS — Last year's drought appears to have caused oil levels in the 2012 U.S. soybean crop to rise and protein levels to drop, a release from the United Soybean Board stated.
The annual U.S. Soybean Quality Survey found the oil level in the overall crop rose from 18.2 percent to 18.5 percent last year. In the meantime, the protein level dropped from 34.8 percent to 34.3 percent.
Seth Naeve, who conducted the study, said the drought likely had a hand in holding protein levels down.
Oil and protein levels are important to many soybean buyers.
Animal agriculture consumes nearly 98 percent of U.S. soy meal, which is fed to poultry, swine, fish and other animals.
The food industry uses nearly 70 percent of soy oil, either as a frying oil or as an ingredient in food products.