U.S. Custom Harvesters conduct 41st convention

Kelly Kravig. (Photo courtesy of Laura Haffner.)

The U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc. recently hosted its 41st annual convention January 25 to 27, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. There were 1,080 people in attendance including harvesters, vendors, and manufacturers.

Mandi Sieren, USCHI operations manager, reports that labor and weather are top concerns for harvesters in the organization.

Several concerns for harvesters

David Misner, USCHI President confirms that sentiment. He knows that people are, “worried about the H-2A program and the drastic increase in costs.”

Kristi Boswell, who represents USCHI in Washington D.C., comments, “the last three years have seen multiple rule makings that alter the H-2A program. These changes impact program operations, government required wage rates, and the ability of harvesters to afford critical truck driving positions. What we’ve seen in these regulations is increased costs and complexity which exasperates an already uncertain labor situation.”

Rick Farris, Farris Brothers Harvesting, Edson, Kansas, said he remains “guardedly optimistic about the possibility of there being a crop.”  He was pleased with what he saw in central Oklahoma as many farmers already had cattle grazing.  He reports northwest Kansas’s stands are a little less uniform.


Darren Jacobs, John Deere Harvester Works, has been working to increase stock of parts in the support trailer vans that follow harvesters up the run. This will help mitigate issues in the supply chain that continue to plague all manufacturers post COVID.

Relationship building is a key component of the convention between harvesters, manufacturers, and vendors. Having timely service on the run is key for all parties. Kelly Kravig, who recently retired after 42 years with Case IH and 30 years with custom harvesters, supported this observation and says many in the room have become lifelong friends. He is pictured , at right, in the above photo taken by Laura Haffner as he interacts with a U.S. Custom Harvesters Inc. member at the convention and trade show in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Kravig says weather will be one of the biggest concerns coming into the 2024 season followed by business decisions.  He voiced concern regarding increased input costs and inflation throughout the last several years. “It’s a tough balance from the farmer all the way through the production chain.”

Educational opportunities

The USCHI convention offers educational opportunities.  Offerings include labor and legislative updates, combine and forage clinics, and a trip to the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. Harvesting is often a family affair with many crews traveling alongside their children. It’s an organizational priority to have programing for the younger harvesters.

Aubree Thouvenel, USCHI Children’s Safety Day coordinator, values the support and generosity of vendors and manufacturers at “Safety Day.”

“They have always provided high visibility safety vests, glasses, whatever was needed for the event, even helping educate. Our kids are unique in that they may be around the equipment from the time they are born. I try to make this safety day a little more specific to what they may be exposed to on the run, not just around the farm. We want everyone on harvest safe, especially our children.”

Each year, USCHI offers college scholarships to youth whose family has ties to the organization. This year, they were able to present five scholarships, in addition to one offered from insurance company, INSPRO.  Seth Buxcel, BXL, Inc., of Savage, Montana, was elected to the board of directors.

Next year’s convention will be held Jan. 30 to Feb. 1, 2025, in Des Moines, Iowa.