Steady growth and a focus on service keep Burlington Junction MFA Agri Services on the rise

Written by Steve Farichild on .

Manager for Burlington Junction MFA Agri Services, Rick Fuller, told Today’s Farmer that hiring good employees is a critical part of providing customers good service.If it’s time for any kind of field work, you can bet equipment from the Burlington Junction MFA Agri Services is on the move. The rolling hills of Nodaway County and the surrounding area favor corn and soybeans, and serving farmers with those crops is the core business at this MFA retail location. Nodaway County sees about 250,000 acres
split between corn and soybeans each year.

Longtime MFA employee Rick Fuller joined Burlington Junction Agri Services seven and a half years ago as manager. He said that the location is in a growth mode.

“Business here has steadily risen over the past years. Crop protection sales have been a leader in growth recently. We’ve seen the shift away from glyphosate-focused weed control to more complete weed control plans. Preplant application acres increased this year, and we see a little more two-pass applications in corn.”

Fuller said MFA’s strategy to better serve customers is another factor for growth at the location. At Burlington Junction, you can see efforts to make operations more efficient for employees and customers.

“Last winter, we built new bulk seed tanks and installed a new seed treater.” said Fuller. “The new treater is faster and easier to use than the one we had previously. We use to have to dump bulk bags into the treater. Now it’s all computerized.”

Fuller added that treating soybean seed no longer requires two or three employees on hand. One person can do it. As farmers increasingly rely on the advantages of modern seed treatment, this is an important savings in labor.

“Growers around here are progressive. We treat virtually all the soybeans that go out the door,” said Fuller. “So it can be a labor issue. That’s at the same time we are spraying fields and sending tender trucks out. We used to have to bring someone out of the office to help treat seed who can now stay there and make sure customer work orders are organized.”

Another move toward efficiency came in 2012 when Burlington Junction Agri Services purchased the nearby SurGrow location. The acquisition added a warehouse, additional bulk chemical storage and a dry fertilizer plant to MFA’s assets in town.

“That purchase has allowed us to save money by being able to buy crop protection products earlier and lock in on better pricing,” said Fuller. The warehouse fulfilled a need for seed storage. The extra 1,700 tons of dry fertilizer storage has helped serve customers in a hurry to cover acres during open weather.

Fuller, who has been with MFA for 30 years, is philosophical about the business. He said that products and technology change, but a few things remain the same: there will be competition, pricing is important and service rules.

“At one time there were three ag retailers right here in Burlington Junction. Competition is active around here, but we respect each other. As a result, I think you’ll find that we have a strong customer base that is relatively loyal.”

But, he added, loyalty is a fleeting thing if you don’t keep up with price and service—especially service.

Fuller said that the foundation of good customer service is the having the right employees.

“Our employees are good with farmers,” he said. “I think it is a result of responsibility. We point them in the right direction and they run with the ball. If you give employees responsibility, they think more for themselves. They want to really get it right for the customer. That’s the ultimate boss.”

At Burlington Junction, tenures run long. “All of us have been here for a while,” Fuller said. “Our assistant manager, James Thompson, has worked for MFA for more than 40 years. Experience is a good thing. I try to bring a retired employee back in spring to run the elevator when everyone is running hard. I’m pretty proud of the group of people who work here. We don’t have much turnover, so I think they are proud to work for MFA.”

Going forward, Fuller sees a couple trends that will continue to bring service to the forefront for Burlington Junction Agri Services. Precision agriculture, from custom application of anhydrous ammonia to in-season, variable-rate dry fertilizer application, is increasingly important as growers try to stretch input dollars and get the right amount of product in the right place at the right time. And, Fuller said, program’s like MFA’s CropTrak are a growing practice.

“We have about 1,600 acres in CropTrak this year. Crop consulting is a service retailers can offer as growers get busier.”