U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc - The Voice of Harvesters
Thirty years ago, a custom harvester was inspired to create an organization to act as the voice for the men and women who travel the country harvesting grain crops for growers. The idea became a reality April 8, 1983 with the first organized gathering of more than 150 harvesters in Canyon, Texas. This meeting was the beginning of what is now known as U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc.
Today, USCHI is the only national association working on behalf of the custom harvesting industry. The organization serves as a strong link between harvesters and the farmers and businesses they work with and also provides a powerful voice for the industry to local, state and federal government agencies. Over the years, USCHI has grown to include harvesters of grains and forage, plus many associate members–businesses and individuals whose business depends on the support of custom harvesters.
Many custom harvesting businesses are family operations involving multiple generations who have spent years or even decades working with the same farmers and generations of their family’s. Custom harvesters follow the annual wheat harvest from southwestern United States to Canada. When the wheat crop has been completed, the harvesters will return to various areas of the country to harvest corn, soybeans, milo, sunflowers and other fall crops. This annual journey typically takes approximately six months to complete. Silage harvesters begin their annual harvest each spring in the southern states as various grasses and alfalfa crops mature, leading into corn silage harvest as summer turns to fall.
An elected board of directors leads USCHI. Input from its 500-plus members is channeled through designated committees that report to the board. An annual meeting and trade show is open to all members. This annual gathering provides real benefits by promoting an exchange of ideas, providing a place to find new work and opportunities, and acting as a forum for the discussion of industry issues. It also brings harvesters together in a non-working environment to promote fellowship and relationships that last a lifetime.
Members and elected leaders further build a community through a monthly magazine, Harvest News; the website, www.uschi.com; on Facebook, www.facebook.com/uscustomharvesters; and Twitter, @tweets_USCHI. Through these sources, custom harvesters are able to stay ahead of challenges on the horizon.
Rules and Regulations
For the past three decades, USCHI has been active in working with lawmakers regarding rules and regulations that affect the industry. By maintaining relationships built in Washington, D.C., with Senate and House of Representatives offices, harvesters have been able to make their collective voice be heard on numerous issues.
USCHI is currently working with legislators to resolve two major issues affecting custom harvesters:
• Fuel Tank Legislation — Two bills, S.485 and H.R.1026, have been assigned to congressional committees. If enacted, these bills would allow custom harvesters, farmers and ag businesses to haul up to 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel without the requirement of a hazardous materials endorsement on the driver’s Class A CDL. Currently, the limit is 119 gallons. USCHI and other organizations are in the process of gathering co-sponsors for each bill and remain hopeful for a positive outcome.
• Labor Shortages — Custom harvesting is a seasonal job requiring a workforce that is needed only for approximately six months of the year, but there is a shortage of people willing to work a seasonal job. Because of the difficulty finding employees, a growing number of custom harvesters rely on foreign employees working on H2A visas. The harvest industry is concerned about the changes being proposed to the H2A program as immigration policy is debated in Washington. The H2A special procedures exemption will need to be included in the updated version of the H2A program in order to keep the custom harvesting industry a viable option for farmers.
Over the years, safety on the road, in the field and around the equipment has been a key focus of the organization. An annual safety meeting is conducted for members and their employees each spring in Colby, Kansas, prior to the start of the harvest season. There, new and returning employees learn about potential dangers and basic first aid. For members unable to attend the safety meeting, USCHI offers a safety video series and handbook. The four-DVD set, professionally produced in 2012, covers safety around equipment, trucks and augers, as well as first aid.
USCHI is also a proud sponsor of Progressive Ag Safety Day, a program of the Progressive Ag Foundation. Being a sponsor of the Safety Day program furthers the organization’s commitment to safety with the next generation of farmers and custom harvesters. The planning stages of USCHI’s 2014 convention include a Safety Day for members’ children.
Providing for the Future
One of USCHI’s earliest members sought to create a scholarship fund, which would be used to invest in the futures of members’ children. A committee was formed to create guidelines and develop funding ideas, and in 1991, the initial four recipients each received $500 from USCHI to be used in continuing their education.
The funding for the program began as memorial gifts — a way for members to honor loved ones. It has evolved into more than that. Each year, quilts are sewn and used as the main fundraiser for the committee. At least one quilt is auctioned off during the annual convention, and another is given as the grand prize in a raffle. This program has been very successful due in large part to the committee’s commitment and to the membership’s support. Over the years, more than $158,000 has been distributed among 156 students to help with the cost of education.
Hall of Fame
The U.S. Custom Harvesters Hall of Fame is the only nationwide honorarium in the United States that recognizes harvesters and associates for their lifetime achievements and support of the business without regard to affiliation with commodity groups, membership organizations or industry sectors. The Hall of Fame was established in 1998 by the Board of Directors, which annually solicits nominations and later reviews applications and selects new inductees.
Any individual, including family members or co-workers, or other membership organizations, businesses or institutions may make nominations. Eligibility extends to custom harvesters and members of associated businesses, both men and women, whose lifetime accomplishments are noteworthy for their contributions to the harvesting industry or to the health of rural communities, which are dependent upon the harvesting industry. Posthumous nominations are accepted. Past honorees and their personal stories are on the USCHI website, www.uschi.com.
Involvement with other Ag Organizations
Through involvement with organizations such as American Trucking Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, and American Farm Bureau, USCHI has developed a variety of strong relationships and allies. Recently, USCHI has had numerous occasions to draw from these resources. USCHI was also a sponsor for the 2013 Ag Day celebration in Washington, D.C.
“The Great American Wheat Harvest” Movie
USCHI is a sponsor of the upcoming documentary “The Great American Wheat Harvest” being produced and scheduled to premiere at USCHI’s March 2014 convention in Wichita, Kansas. The filmmaker has been in the fields filming this project for the past couple of summers. It is USCHI’s and the producer’s intention to educate the world about the custom harvester’s journey from south to north harvesting the wheat that feeds the world. The story will be told of how a loaf of bread begins in the field and makes its way to a consumer’s table.
Another Option at harvest:
The Custom Grain or Forage Harvester
Equipment failures, labor shortages and inclement weather don’t recognize that the harvest can’t wait. A custom harvester can relieve the stress of the most anticipated stage of a plant’s life cycle for the farmer. By providing the equipment and the necessary labor, a custom harvester is able to harvest the crops in a professional and timely manner.
A call or email to the U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc., office, can link growers to professional harvesters. Visit www.uschi.com for more information or call 620-664-6297 with questions.
By the numbers
The 370 active harvest crews who are USCHI members generate these impressive numbers:
$277,500,000 — value of 925 combines at $300,000 each
$86,000,000 — value of 215 forage choppers at $400,000 each
2,775 — total combine crew employees at three per combine
2,150 — total chopper crew employees at 10 per chopper
3 — average number of combines or choppers per member
850 — trailer houses used while on the road
7,000 — average acres each combine cuts per season
5,000 — average acres each chopper chops per season
130 — days the typical grain harvester is away from home
100 — days the average forage harvester is away from home
21,000 — gallons of fuel consumed by a combine and support equipment per season
30,000 — gallons of fuel consumed by a chopper and support equipment per season
19,425,000 — total gallons of fuel consumed by combines and support equipment per season
6,450,000 — total gallons of fuel consumed by choppers and support equipment per season
92,000 — the number of tires on the ground
$172,375 — daily meal cost for 4,925 employees at $35 per day
$22,408,750 — total meal cost for 4,925 employees for 130 days
$492,500 — labor costs per day
$64,025,000 — labor costs for 130 days
If USCHI members lined up all their combines and choppers side by side, the equipment would cover an area seven miles wide and 60 miles long.
Membership in U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc., is open to U.S. and International grain and forage harvesters. Associate memberships are available for businesses and individuals whose businesses depend upon or support custom harvesters. For more information on joining USCHI, call 620-664-6297 or visit www.uschi.com.
The U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc., safety video series is available to the public for $25 and can be purchased by contacting the USCHI office at 620-664-6297.
The 2014 U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc., convention will be March 6-8 at Century II Performing Arts & convention center at 225 W. Douglas in downtown Wichita, Kan.
The mission of U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc., is to advance the cause of the members of the corporation by representing and promoting the harvesting industry; to positively influence government and regulatory agencies; to enhance the relationship between custom harvesters, their clients, and service providers to the industry, and the general public; and to manage the changing landscape within the industry while enhancing the profitability of custom harvesters and their customers.