A Smarter Way to Fuel
November 5, 2017
Written By Adam Buckallew
Thirty years ago, agricultural cooperative leaders from across the country gathered for a series of focus panels to discuss the future of farmer-owned cooperatives. The panelists’ discussions were summarized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the report “Positioning Farmer Cooperatives for the Future,” which concluded cooperatives must continually adapt to the changing marketplace and needs of farmers in order to meet the challenges of the years to come.
Farmers and agribusinesses have experienced considerable change since the report was published in 1987, but the need for adaptation remains as strong today as it’s ever been. Cooperatives, such as MFA Oil, must embrace innovation in order to keep up with the rapid pace of change in agriculture and the overall business world.
The drive to stay competitive has led to the development of MFA Oil’s new Fuel Smarter discount pricing program, which offers customers opportunities to earn deep discounts by agreeing to sign up for Auto-Fill or right-sizing their tank.
“We are trying to provide the best combination of service and price to our customers as we can, and this program gives us a chance to deliver significant value to both our members and non-members,” says Kenny Steeves, MFA Oil vice president of bulk fuel and propane operations.
The program is straightforward with tiered discounts based on customers’ tank size. Those who sign up for the company’s Auto-Fill program or right-size their fuel tank are eligible for the program’s Advanced Pricing category. Anyone who agrees to do both is eligible for the biggest savings in the Elite Pricing tier.
Hit the Easy Button
Why should farmers consider automatic fills scheduled by the company? Besides the new discount program, signing up for Auto-Fill ensures worry-free deliveries, which are coordinated based on customers’ needs. MFA Oil uses tank-monitoring technology that factors in past usage and weather conditions to determine when deliveries need to be scheduled.
“Think of it like hitting the easy button,” says Larry Ehrman, the cooperative’s vice president of logistics. “You won’t need to check your tank gauge, or worry about running low or calling us—we’ll get you what you need, when you need it. We can track fuel and propane needs through a variety of means, including tank monitors, Julian-day forecasting and degree-day forecasting.”
Another benefit of the Auto-Fill program is that it allows the company to plan its delivery routes more efficiently.
“When we know in advance how fuel and propane levels are looking in our customers’ tanks, it drastically improves the efficiency of our delivery routing and makes things much easier for our drivers,” Steeves says. “That’s something our farmer-owners should appreciate, because the more efficient we become, the less we spend on operations – meaning there will be more money available to go back to our members in the form of patronage.”
Customers who are interested in signing up for Auto-Fill should contact their local MFA Oil plant manager.
“Your manager can work with you to evaluate the needs of your farm or home and suggest the best course of action to ensure your tanks always have adequate supply,” Ehrman says.
The Right Fit
Right-sizing fuel tanks is a proactive step farmers can take to ensure they have suitable supply levels during times of peak usage, such as planting and harvest.
“Proper sizing reduces dependency on multiple fills and limits the risk of costly interruptions in your operation,” Steeves says.
Denis Dreiling, who manages multiple MFA Oil plants in southwest Missouri, has seen the benefits of right-sizing tanks firsthand. In the past year, more than 25 refined fuel tanks in his territory have been replaced by larger ones with greater storage capacity. The effort has cut down on the number of deliveries to the same customers by nearly 800 stops while increasing volume by roughly 90,000 gallons.
“I’ve got customers who went from 40 deliveries on a 300-gallon tank to ten deliveries with a 1,000-gallon tank,” Dreiling says. “When you combine correctly sized tanks with monitoring devices, it really streamlines our delivery process and makes things so much easier on our drivers.”
While not all customer tanks are in need of right-sizing, Dreiling says it doesn’t hurt to ask.
“Your plant manager can review how much fuel your operation uses and determine whether installing a new tank makes sense,” he says. “We have several affordable options for leasing or purchasing new tanks.”
MFA Oil has experienced many changes since its inception in 1929, and the discounted pricing offered through the Fuel Smarter program is simply the company’s latest effort to retain its position as a competitive force in the marketplace.
Just as the cooperative leaders of yesteryear foresaw the need to adapt to meet the future needs of farmers, Steeves says MFA Oil is committed to taking the steps necessary to continue serving the energy needs of its farmer-owners.
“We’re simply trying to provide a smarter way to do business with MFA Oil that helps people worry less and save more money,” Steeves says. “When you take our premium products and excellent service, combined with the deep discounts we’re offering in addition to patronage, it all adds up to an amazing value.”