A drive through the heartland of the U.S. reveals open spaces punctuated by grain elevators and augurs. Grain production provides not only nutritional fuel, but also economic fuel, and both depend on an efficient storage and distribution system. John Fletcher realized that with some improvements to facilities, including building a railroad loop on the north side of Marshall, he could streamline the process of moving grain from trucks to train cars.
Fletcher is a farmer and businessman who lives near Marshall, Missouri, a town of 13,000 one hour northwest of Columbia. He graduated from Missouri Valley College, with a Bachelor’s of Science in economics with honors in 1978. Before serving as the general manager of Central Missouri Agri-Service LLC (CMAS), Fletcher oversaw trading and transportation of a member company
The main CMAS office is located at the heart of Marshall. Office manager, Connie Latimer, said the company has satellite offices in Slater, Miami, Malta Bend, Waverly and Blackburn. Fletcher’s company is a member of the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA), which exports over 70 percent of the national grain and oilseeds produced annually. Farmers throughout Saline County and the surrounding area use CMAS year round, but especially during harvest. CMAS allows farmers to sell their grain in exchange for storing ther product. Robert Edwards, Grain Merchandiser at CMAS, said the company has an overall storage capacity of 23.19 million bushels.
Realizing the demand for grain exports, Fletcher invested in providing an efficient service to help the needs of farmers by constructing a railroad loop on the north side of Marshall. One misconception is the railroad loop and four bunkers were installed to allow for more storage. In reality, Fletcher recognized that it is more effective for Kansas City Southern (KCS) to send a large train with 100 boxcars to relocate grain rather than multiple trains with smaller amounts of cars.
On Dec. 8, 2011, Fletcher presented the business plan to the Committee on Agriculture in the U.S House of Representatives. In his 2011 report to the National Grain and Feed Association, Fletcher said, “Looking ahead, it will be very important to re-establish confidence in future markets and the safety of segregated consumer funds and property.”
Gerry Young has worked with the Fletcher family since 1988 and currently serves as assistant general manager at CMAS. Early in 2014, Young became the project manager of the construction of the railroad loop.
The first concrete was poured in December of 2014. Contractors were careful to remain within guidelines provided by the Corps of Engineers, complying with weekly inspections of the construction. CMAS remains cautious to avoid any land disturbances and assures that all water leaves the property without contaminants. Local businesses including: Marshall Electric, WB Young, Wayne Brown Construction and Wayne Brown Enterprises were all part of the building process.
Along with creating jobs and supporting Marshall’s economy, the construction has benefited farmers by allowing them to save time during harvest season. Semi-trucks scale in, deposit grain into one of the 2.5 million bushel bunkers, and scale out within four to six minutes. This allows for farmers to make one to two more turns throughout the day, increasing the productivity in the transfer of grain from the field to the bins. The new site is able to process 30,000 bushels each hour. Although KCS has provided a 16-hour agreement from the time the train arrives to its departure, the facility is able to load 100 boxcars containing 350,000 bushels within 9 hours. During this process, CMAS has two employees who alternate operating the engine. Each car is inspected and graded on site, the office basement conveniently houses the state grain grading office. The grain is transported to Mexico, according to Latimer, for poultry production on the Kansas City Southern train line. Farmers have responded that the new site is fast, efficient, accessible, and more streamlined.
Fletcher contributes his knowledge to the industry by serving on the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee of the National Grain and Feed Association. He has also assisted in some of the NGFA committees. Closer to home, Fletcher has held the position as a board member of Directors of the Missouri Agri-business association. Locally, he has had experience as a city councilman and a board chairman E911, reassigning rural addresses throughout Saline County.
Young noted that CMAS is successful at servicing the farmers of rural America because, “no matter how nice your facility is, you need to have the right people.”