By Lynette Cockerell
Nestled in the center of PCCA’s headquarters in Lubbock, Texas, the Grower Services department is filled with the rustling of paperwork, the tap-tap- tapping of fingers on keyboards and the constant ringing of telephones. Especially during the cotton harvest season, the Grower Services office is alive with activity each day.
The name “TELCOT Center” always has been synonymous with service. However, as PCCA’s patented TELCOT trading system was transformed into the web- based The Seam, TELCOT Center was renamed “Grower Services” to better describe the myriad of functions performed by the department.
“Our office located in the middle of the building, and I think we truly are at the ‘center’ of PCCA,” says Grower Services Manager Charley Triplett. “Almost everything that goes on in the building comes through our department at one point,” he says with a smile.
The department’s six-person staff has a combined total of 69 years of service with PCCA, combining a valuable blend of contemporary education and technical savvy with an understanding of PCCA’s history and evolution.
“Our staff works together as a team,” Triplett says. “The employees complement each other very well in their jobs as everyone has their areas of expertise and years of experience. However, duties overlap, and everyone in the department is more than willing to assist the others to complete the task at hand,” he adds.
The Grower Services department specializes in gin services, patron accounting, government programs, and Member Access support.
Gin services include support for gin personnel in the marketing and invoicing of members’ cotton, providing gins with online program documentation, and sponsoring a gin training workshop each year.
“The workshop Grower Services holds each year always introduces us to new ideas and innovative ways of doing things,” says Marie Pechacek, office manager at Glasscock County Coop near Garden City, Texas. “I don’t know what we’d do without them because they save us a lot of time and work. They take care of many things including some government paperwork that allows us to concentrate on work we need to get done at the gin.”
Coordinating with the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) and county Farm Service Agencies (FSA), determining member eligibility for loans and loan deficiency payments, monitoring member payment limits, requesting additional payment limits from FSA offices, and maintaining weekly and annual governmental reports are all functions of the Grower Services staff.
In addition to governmental functions, patron accounting also is performed in the Grower Services department. Tasks include dividend and stock retirements for all divisions and member correspondence concerning patronage.
“We handle our members’ equity in PCCA,” says Triplett. “Essentially, we are in charge of making sure their ownership interest in their cooperative is correct.”
Additionally, the department processes all paperwork for PCCA members including pool contracts, account authorizations, loan paperwork, mill option agreements and crop contracts. Staff at PCCA satellite offices in Taylor, Texas, and Corpus Christi, Texas, process the paperwork in their areas. Each time a change is made, the paperwork must be updated on the PCCA computer system and filed in a long line of filing cabinets holding scores of legal documents. All paperwork must be correct as many of the documents dictate check amounts and payees.
“A large portion of our job is processing checks,” says Allen Hoelscher, Grower Services supervisor. “We’re responsible for payments from the sale of cotton in the pool and on The Seam, PCCA dividends and stock retirements. In fact, we print and mail all of the statements and checks that are sent to our members, and it’s a pretty big job.”
Despite state-of-the-art technology, checks must be attached to statements and placed in an envelope by hand. The task is not small. Hoelscher explains that PCCA stock retirements can be as large as 35,000 statements and 20,000 checks while a pool progress payment may total 17,000 checks. Payments for the sale of cotton are available the day after the sale is invoiced.
“There aren’t many places where you can sell your cotton and receive payment the very next day,” Triplett says. “We pride ourselves in providing great customer service, and that’s one of the many ways we assist our members.”
Grower Services continues its commitment to customer service by providing technical support to members who require assistance with PCCA’s Member Access which can be viewed through PCCA’s website www.PCCA.com.
Member Access, in operation for one year, allows PCCA members to view information regarding their gin accounts and scale tickets as well as PCCA statements and patronage via a secure site. The data provided through Member Access also can be helpful when filing tax returns because PCCA statements and patronage information may be viewed and printed at the members’ convenience. Additionally, crop production data, beginning with the 2002 crop, is available online to aid in important planting decisions or FSA reporting requirements. The Grower Services staff also help producers with specific questions regarding the best way to use the site.
“Through the years, the Grower Services department has grown in responsibilities and workload and has become a safety net for many of PCCA’s activities,” explains Vice President of Grower Services Dean Church. “Charley Triplett and his staff have continued to find ways of providing better, more efficient service to producers, gins and PCCA.”
Numerous changes occurred at Plains Cotton Cooperative Association (PCCA) during 2004 including personnel, policies and member services. To introduce PCCA members to the cooperative’s staff and the services provided, Commentatorwill feature one department in each of the next several issues.
With harvest and ginning of the 2004/05 cotton crop well underway, it is appropriate that PCCA’s Growser Services department, formerly known as TELCOT Center, be featured in this issue of the magazine. Here, a staff of siz specialized in patron accounting, gin servics, government programs, and Member Access support.