Public gets look at new terminal

The Sumner County Rail Terminal will be open to accept grain starting June 1. The new facility, also known as a shuttle loader, can load a 120-car train in seven hours or less. Mid Kansas Coop (MKC) and CHS, Inc., are the owners of the rail terminal.

New grain facility will be open for harvest starting June 1

By Travis Mounts

Members of the public and the media got a close-up look at the new Sumner County Rail Terminal grain storage and transfer facility, located near Milan, during an open house last week.

The facility is owned by Producer Ag, which is a joint venture between Mid Kansas Coop (MKC) and CHS, Inc.

The new facility – also referred to as a shuttle loader – has the ability to receive grain at a rate up to 100,000 bushels per hour and to load grain onto railcars at up to 80,000 bushels per hour. The location of the terminal, at the junction of U.S. 160 and K-49 highways nine miles due south of Conway Springs and seven miles east of Argonia, gives it easy access to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail line that runs east-to-west across western Sumner County, mirroring the path of U.S. 160 from Wellington to the Sumner-Harper county line.

“We’re just excited to be here,” said terminal manager Jeff Jones. “We (MKC) have been in Kansas for 75 years, and we’re excited to be in Sumner County.

MKC is based in Moundridge. CHS is based in St. Paul, Minn.

A drone camera caught this image of the Sumner County Rail Terminal in April. Tours of the new shuttle loader facility were held last Thursday, with more than 400 people getting a look at the $40 million venture. It is located nine miles due south of Conway Springs, at the intersection of U.S. 160 and K-49 highways near Milan.

Jones said more than 400 people attended last week’s open house.

The new terminal is expected to take in grain from this year’s wheat harvest. It’s opening date is targeted for June 1. It has the potential for changing the competitive balance in Sumner County.

From the corner of U.S. 160 and K-49, a person can see the Farmers Cooperative Grain Elevator facility in Conway Springs, as well as Progressive Ag’s elevators in Argonia to the west and an elevator just three miles to the east, near Mayfield. Since MKC’s announcement last year of the new terminal, the former Danville Coop and Farmers Cooperative in Wellington have merged to form Progressive Ag. Co-op mergers have been an ongoing trend across the country.

Jones said the new facility is not a threat to other cooperatives in the area.

“We are the wheat capitol of the world,” he said. “There’s plenty of wheat in the area.”

Last year saw big results for wheat and other crops. Co-ops in Conway Springs and Clearwater were among several that quickly added additional flat storage.

Area residents look inside the control room for the Sumner County Rail Terminal. Automation would allow one person, if necessary, to handle grain intake.

In addition to the new facility in Milan, a new shuttle loader facility opened last year in Medford, Okla., providing easy access to many Sumner County farmers as well as the member co-ops. That facility – which can store 4.35 million bushels – is co-owned by CoMark Grain Marketing, which itself is co-owned by numerous local cooperatives including Farmers Cooperative Grain Association in Conway Springs and Progressive Ag in Danville and Wellington.

“Right now, you’re hearing a lot about storage, mainly that everything’s full,” Morlan told the Star-Argosy last fall. “Even more than price, this benefits us by giving us a pipeline to get this grain out of here faster.”

According to MKC representatives, the terminal near Milan will use RFID (radio-frequency identification) devices in trucks to speed up the delivery process. The tags, which are similar to the K-Tag used by the Kansas Turnpike Authority, have many uses in a variety of industries. Those uses include identification badges, railroad distribution, passports, animal identification, managing mobile equipment in hospitals, in library books, in races and in ski resort lift passes.

The terminal has nearly 7 million bushels of storage, split between slip form and flat storage. The flat storage facility includes 4.2 million bushels of storage. The elevator portion of the facility can be segmented, allowing for a wide variety of grain storage, by both quality of grain and type of grain.

The loop track, when completed, will be roughly two miles long and will be able to hold 120 rail cars.

Agronomy services and retail products will not be available immediately at the Sumner County Rail Terminal, Jones said, but other products and services are under consideration for the future.

This flat storage facility can hold 4.2 million bushels of grain. A conveyor delivers the grain, which is dropped with pinpoint accuracy thanks to laser measurements.