Education and camaraderie are the top reasons for Al Lutz's growing involvement in U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc. (USCHI).

“The organization gives me all the help I need with safety education, permit programs and labor laws,” says Lutz, Phillipsburg, KS. “Plus, it's a lot of fun to get together with other harvesters at the annual meeting.”

In March, Lutz became the first custom forage harvester to be elected to the USCHI board of directors.

“I was tired of hearing some forage harvesters complain: ‘There's no reason for me to join USCHI because we don't have any representation on the board.’ Now they can't say that,” he says.

Established in 1983, the organization serves as a link between custom harvesters and the groups they interact with, such as equipment manufacturers, insurance companies, state governments and the federal government. It regularly sends delegates to Washington to lobby for or against legislation that affects custom harvesters.

“The more custom harvesters we have as members, the better off we are when we go to Washington to get things accomplished,” says Lutz.

Dues are $150/year for custom harvesters; $100/year for associate members. All members get the organization's monthly magazine, Harvest News, and its annual directory. The directory includes members' names, addresses and phone numbers, plus permit information, traffic regulations and lien laws for most states.

Most members are custom grain harvesters, but the organization is working to attract more forage harvesters.

Lutz and his 14-man crew travel from early March to mid-November to chop and haul bermudagrass, ryegrass, wheat, alfalfa, corn and sorghum. They work in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas. Lutz owns two choppers and 15 trucks. He subcontracts with others to swath, rake and pack the forages.

For more information, contact U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc., 1600 N. Lorraine St., Suite 204, Hutchinson, KS 67501. Phone: 620-664-6297; e-mail: Web site address: