GROWMARK Part of ResponsibleAg

Wells_Rod5X7 copyThe first ResponsibleAg board of directors members were recently named and Rod Wells, manager of the plant food division of GROWMARK is one of nine.

Rod says it’s important for GROWMARK to be involved in this non-profit organization designed to work with retailers ensuring best practices are in place providing a safe product to the consumer.

“This is an industry led initiative,” said Rod. “We want to demonstrate that we are doing the right things, that we are operating safety, we’re complying with regulations, that we are accountable. We feel like ResponsibleAg is a very transparent way to show that we are committed, compliant, and safe operators in the communities that we serve.”

You can listen to my interview with Rod here: Interview with Rod Wells, GROWMARK

The Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) and The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) announced the board of directors for ResponsibleAg will meet next month to finalize bi-laws, an operating budget, elect officers and begin looking for a business manager to oversee the day to day operations of the new organization.

Launch of Open Ag Data Alliance

The Climate Corporation and several agricultural stakeholders have officially launched the Open Ag Data Alliance (OADA), an open standards software project to ensure farmers have full data access, security and privacy.

oada“OADA will work to ensure farmers can move their data seamlessly and securely between their equipment, software and services by speeding the development of technical standards for data formatting and interoperability that will be openly developed, and shared,” said David Friedberg, CEO of The Climate Corporation, who announced the company’s intent to support the formation of the OADA earlier this year.

Aaron Ault, a senior research engineer for the Open Ag Technology Group at Purdue and a farmer himself, will serve as project lead for OADA. “As a farmer, I need the freedom to select the right hardware, software and services for my operation,” said Ault. “The open standards of OADA will give farmers the flexibility and control they need to choose data science products and services that will work on their farms to help manage their data and make more data-driven decisions, enabling the next wave of agricultural production.”

Companies joining with The Climate Corporation in making the announcement included: CNH Industrial – Case IH/New Holland; GROWMARK cooperative; Valley Irrigation; Wilbur-Ellis Company; and WinField.

Listen to the conference call announcement here: Open Ag Data Alliance announcement

GROWMARK, John Deere Data Collaboration

growmarklogoGROWMARK and John Deere are collaborating to make life easier and improve decision-making for producers and agronomists.

The two are collaborating to deliver near real-time field level data to producers and FS Crop Specialists by linking FS Advanced Information Services (FS AIS), a suite of precision agronomy software, with John Deere Wireless Data Transfer, JDLink™ and MyJohnDeere.

John DeereGROWMARK Agronomy Marketing executive director Ron Milby says they are among the first agricultural retailers to leverage the Wireless Data Transfer Application Programming Interface (API) for its precision agronomy decision support software, making data exchange faster and more useful for growers and its FS company staff. “The open platform John Deere provides enables farmers and FS company staff to use the FS AIS software to make decisions in near real time – that’s a win-win,” Milby said.

Ron says they chose to work with Deere because they believe they are a leader in this field. “I think they’re going to be a viable leader in the future,” he said. “We were headed to this base, they were headed to this base, and we were able to work with them.

Producers will utilize an efficient and secure interface between FS AIS and MyJohnDeere, taking advantage of both companies’ commitment to supporting better decisions through improved data integration at the field level. This includes the ability to easily transfer work instructions, prescriptions, and product lists to the GreenStar™ 3 2630 display. Yield data, as-applied maps and work records can be transferred back to the FS AIS software.

Find out more in this interview with Ron: Interview with Ron Milby, GROWMARK

New Website for FS System

fsThe FS System of GROWMARK has launched a new website to help better promote the brand that has been in existence for nearly 50 years.

The history of the FS System dates back to the formation of the Illinois Farm Supply Company in the early 1920s and was developed as a consolidated brand for agricultural and energy-related products in 1955.

Krista Wolf, GROWMARK Manager for Brand Strategy & Marketing Communications says the new website – www.FSSystem.com – is part of an overall campaign for the FS Brand. “We’ve used campaigns to promote the FS brand throughout all trade territories of the FS companies,” which includes the Midwest and northeastern United States and in Ontario, Canada.

The new site is easy to navigate and includes links to the various FS companies. “While all of those entities had their own websites, we didn’t have a system presence for the FS brand,” said Krista, who added that it also helps make the FS brand more search engine friendly. There are also links on the site to all of the FS brand segments, including agronomy, seed and energy – and links to all of the FS social media pages.

Find out more in this interview with Krista: Interview with Krista Wolf, GROWMARK

Perfect Storm Causes Propane Shortage

imageFreezing temperatures, a wetter than normal harvest, and more exports have all contributed to a “perfect storm” scenario for short supplies of propane right now.

According to Scott Long, manager of propane marketing and business development for GROWMARK, the wet harvest meant nearly 5 times the amount of propane was used to dry the crop than normal. This put the market behind during a winter that has been bitterly cold. Add to that the fact that we have had increased exports since the United States has the some of the lowest priced propane in the world.

Scott believes that things are starting to turn a corner and the prices are starting to come down a little, but it’s going to take some time for the market to correct itself. In the state of Illinois, Governor Pat Quinn has declared an energy emergency to help bring more propane to the state and relax some of the rules for energy assistance and help small businesses with increased costs associated with the supply shortage. Scott says that this can be prevented in the future and the market is going to recover. He asks people to just “bear with us” as the marketers and wholesalers work through this issue.

You can listen to my interview with Scott here: Scott Long, GROWMARK

GROWMARK Announces Essay Contest Theme

growmarklogoThe theme for the 2014 GROWMARK Essay Contest is: “Promoting Sustainability and Conservation of Natural Resources.” The contest is open to all high school FFA members in Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin.

This is the 21st year for the program, sponsored by the GROWMARK System and FS member cooperatives, in conjunction with state FFA leaders, to help young people develop their writing skills, learn about current issues affecting agriculture, and understand the unique role of cooperatives. This year, students will focus on three questions: What does sustainability mean? Why should farmers be concerned with conservation and sustainable practices? What role do cooperatives play in this effort?

Essays should be approximately 500 words, typed and double-spaced. The postmarked entry deadline for Iowa FFA members is February 14. The postmarked entry deadline for Illinois and Wisconsin FFA members is March 14. Additional program details have been sent to agriculture teachers and are online at www.growmark.com (click on Our Commitments/Youth & Young Farmers/Essay Contest).

Each state’s winner earns a $500 award and the winner’s FFA chapter receives a $300 award. Four runners-up per state each win $125 awards.

GROWMARK Becomes NAMA Sustaining Sponsor

GrowmarkWe welcome GROWMARK as a fellow Sustaining Partner of the National Agri-Marketing Association!

GROWMARK is one of the cooperatives in agri-marketing,” said Jenny Pickett, NAMA Executive Vice President/CEO, in announcing the partnership. “Their support is not only an endorsement of the industry and the Association today, but also a pledge to help us, and our members, continue to be at the forefront of agricultural marketing in the years to come. We are delighted with this statement of support.”

As a Sustaining Partner, GROWMARK will receive additional exposure at upcoming NAMA events and on the Association’s website, Pickett explained.

“GROWMARK has supported NAMA in a variety of ways for more than 15 years,” according to Amy Bradford, GROWMARK corporate relations manager. “To be able to expand this support with a Sustaining Partnership is an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. NAMA conferences and leader opportunities play a direct role in the professional and personal development of GROWMARK staff.”

Thanks Amy and GROWMARK. ZimmComm also thanks you for your support of our work!

Lincoln Land FS & Two Rivers FS Combine

13910prairieland_275The shareholders of Lincoln Land FS, Inc., headquartered in Jacksonville, Ill., and Two Rivers FS, Inc., headquartered in Rushville, Ill., have approved the merger of their two companies effective December 1, 2013. The new company – Prairieland FS, Inc. — will be headquartered in Jacksonville. Keith Hufendick, formerly manager of Two Rivers FS is named chief executive officer; Matt Busby, formerly manager of Lincoln Land FS is named chief operating officer.

Joe Pickrell, Buffalo Ill, was named President of the newly-formed company; Chet Esther, Frederick Ill, is Vice President. The combined entities recorded $300 million in sales for the most recent fiscal year ended July 31, 2013.

GROWMARK Supports Kleckner Fellowship

One of the many ways that GROWMARK participates in the World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue is through support of the Truth About Trade and Technology (TATT)Kleckner Fellowship.

wfp13-karenGROWMARK Corporate Relations Specialist Karen Jones attended the World Food Prize events for the first time this year, the first time they have helped sponsor the fellowship, which was created last year in honor of retiring TATT chairman Dean Kleckner. “Just being here for the first time has been pretty amazing because there are so many people here all united under the same goal to talk about and try to solve some of these problems that affect our global neighbors,” she said.

Karen says the cooperative also supports the efforts of Farmers Feeding the World. Interview with GROWMARK's Karen Jones

raviThe Kleckner Fellowship and Trade & Technology Advancement Award was awarded this year to Indian farmer Ravichandran “Ravi” Vanchinathan. The Kleckner Fellowship was endowed to support at least one global farmer’s participation each year in the Global Farmer Roundtable and Ravi was the first. The Kleckner Trade & Technology Advancement Award recognizes “strong leadership, vision, and resolve in advancing the rights of all farmers to choose the technology and tools that will improve the quality, quantity, and availability of agricultural products around the world.”

2013 TATT Global Farmer Roundtable photos


2013 World Food Prize photos

GROWMARK Highlights National Co-op Month

Growmark_logoOur friends at GROWMARK are joining cooperatives throughout the country in celebrating the contributions co-ops make to the social and economic development of rural America during National Co-op Month in October.

CoopMonth20131This year’s theme is “Collaborate, Communicate, Cooperate,” reflecting the benefits that arise from collaboration – the sharing of ideas, resources and capital which helps individuals accomplish more together than they would on their own.

Nearly 3,000 farmer cooperatives, like GROWMARK, FS, and grain member cooperatives, account for as many as 300,000 jobs worldwide and a total payroll of more than $8 billion.

Cooperatives operate under a set of guidelines known as the cooperative principles. Doing business with the values of voluntary and open membership, democratic member control, members’ economic participation, autonomy and independence, education, training, and information, cooperation among cooperatives, and concern for community sets cooperatives apart and inspires loyalty and commitment from their member owners.

The more than 29,000 cooperatives across America generate 2 million jobs and $652 billion in sales with assets of $3 trillion. The GROWMARK System itself employs more than 7,000 people serving 250,000 customers.

GROWMARK Names Scholarship Winners

fs-growmarkForty-six college students from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin recently received help to continue their college educations from GROWMARK as recipients of scholarships aimed at promoting higher education in agriculture and business.

“GROWMARK invests in future talent by providing more than $44,000 in scholarships annually,” said Ashley McClintock, GROWMARK university relations manager. “We are committed to education and personal development, and the GROWMARK Scholarship Program allows us to recognize the future leaders in agriculture and business.”

GROWMARK has been supporting college students with scholarships since the early 1960s. Today, they are awarded to students majoring in agriculture or accounting at 16 universities and colleges. Each educational institution is responsible for the selection process and awarding scholarships.

See the names of all the winners here.

Listen to an interview with Ashely here: Interview with Ashley McClintock, GROWMARK

GROWMARK Updates Member Resource Platform

nama-amy-chuckKeeping all of the different divisions and the 35 FS member cooperatives of the GROWMARK system connected is a constantly evolving process, according to Amy Bradford, corporate communications manager – pictured here with NAMA CEO Jenny Pickett and Chuck at the NAMA fall conference.

“My IT likes to call it an evolution because it’s never over,” she told Chuck during an interview at the conference. They are now on a new version of SharePoint for the company’s eResource area that provides better navigation, new functionality and a more cohesive look.

“Each of our major divisions – energy, agronomy, logistics, facility planning – they have their own sites so they have specialized information on products and services that they offer our members,” Amy says. “So, it really is everything a member company would need GROWMARK expertise for or a product or a service, they would go to eResource to find it.”

Basically, eResource gives GROWMARK member companies a centralized resource to order products and get important information. Of course, eResource is password protected for member companies only and it helps those companies serve their members better.

Listen to Chuck’s interview with Amy here: Interview with Amy Bradford, GROWMARK

2013 NAMA Fall Conference Photo Album

Results from GROWMARK Annual Meeting

growmarklogoLast week GROWMARK held their Annual Meeting to discuss the year-end financial results and carry out other business for the cooperative. Business units produced record sales for the 2013 fiscal year, which ended August 31.

I spoke with CEO of GROWMARK, Jeff Solberg, and he reported estimated sales of $10.3 billion for fiscal year 2013. Pretax income is estimated at $220 million, which signifies one of the best years in company history. An estimated $135 million in patronage refunds will be returned to GROWMARK member cooperatives and farmer-owners.

“We began this year coming off a severe drought, but the strength of the FS System pulled us through to a very good 2013 fiscal year. Our business is built around our mission to improve the long-term profitability of our member owners. Our sales will allow us to return significant patronage to our owners. We remain committed to their success and to the unity of our cooperative system.”

Dr. Michael Cook, executive director of the Graduate Institute of Cooperative Leadership at the University of Missouri, was awarded the “Friend of GROWMARK” award. The award recognizes outstanding leadership and commitment to agriculture and the GROWMARK System.

New leadership among the GROWMARK community was also announced. John Reifsteck was elected chairman of the GROWMARK Board of Directors. He replaced retiring Dan Kelley. John has served on the board since 1993 and was one of two vice chairmen. Rick Nelson and Chet Esther were elected the new vice chairmen and Bob Phelps was elected Secretary.

Listen to my interview with Jeff here: Interview with Jeff Solberg

An On The Farm Full Service Provider

fps-13-673-editedGROWMARK, along with FS had a strong presence at the recent Farm Progress Show in Decatur, IL. No matter where you went it was hard to escape the view of an FS flag waving high in the sky. Not only were they again sponsors of fuel used throughout the grounds, but they also gave a hands-on view of all the companies product divisions.

On the coolest day of the Farm Progress Show I visited the FS booth and spoke with Jenny Haycraft, who works in marketing and communications for the company. She shared what attendees were able to take in during the event and how FS is a full line service provider on the farm. This includes needs in energy, lubricants, propane, agronomy, seed and in precision farming.

fps-13-677-edited

“Throughout the exhibit we have designated areas for primary product divisions. We’ve got agronomy, seed, grain systems and energy. There are interactive games for attendees to play and learn a little bit about our products and services we offer in each area. And then once they play the game we can interact with them as much as possible and see if they are current customers or potential prospects.”

Listen to my interview with Jenny here: Interview with Jenny Haycraft

Check out photos from the event here: 2013 Farm Progress Show Photo Album

Coverage of the 2013 Farm Progress show is sponsored by Bayer CropScience, Growmark and New Holland

Fueling the Farm Progress Show

fps-13-685-editedYou can only imagine the fuel consumption during the Farm Progress Show. GROWMARK and FS have sponsored the fuel for the largest outdoor farm show for the last 30 years and expect to go through about 2,500 gallons this year. That amount is down from previous years because the field demonstrations had to be cancelled.

Gerald Doty retired from the cooperative seven years ago and was asked to come back and run the fueling station. He eagerly agreed to do a it for three years, but has been here ever since. Gerald said it was a great opportunity for him to stay in-touch with the industry.

“GROWMARK and FS have sponsored fuel for the Farm Progress Show for over 30 years. Typically they would get 50 gallons of free fuel in exchange for us putting a fueled by FS sticker on their equipment, but this year because there wasn’t any field demonstrations we have cut that back to 25 gallons. Here we do this in cooperation with Evergreen FS. Evergreen FS takes care of all the fuel needs inside the fences and we take care of the equipment they need for demonstrations and golf carts.”

Listen to my interview with Gerald here: Interview with Gerald Doty

Check out photos from the event here:2013 Farm Progress Show Photo Album

Coverage of the 2013 Farm Progress show is sponsored by Bayer CropScience, Growmark and New Holland

GROWMARK Supports Illinois Ag in the Classroom

fps-13-166-editedGROWMARK took advantage of the warm sunny skies of the 2013 Farm Progress Show and announced their donation of $70,000 to Illinois Ag in the Classroom programs.

The funding will go to support IAA Foundation’s grassroot efforts to aid Agriculture Literacy Coalitions across the state of Illinois. These programs reach over 500,000 students in both rural and urban areas.

GROWMARK is a regional cooperative providing agriculture-related products and services, as well as grain marketing in more than 40 states and Ontario, Canada. GROWMARK owns the FS trademark, which is used by affiliated member cooperatives. More information is available at www.growmark.com

Here you can listen to the complete press conference announcing the donation. Growmark Press Conference

Chuck Spencer, GROWMARK corporate and government relations director, represented the company and presented the IAA Foundation with the check. I spoke with him following the event and he shared why those at GROWMARK and FS saw the need to invest in the education of the future of agriculture.

Listen to my interview with Chuck here: Interview with Chuck Spencer

Director of the IAA Foundation, Susan Moore, accepted the funds and expressed great enthusiasm and passion when describing how they can be put to the money to work by increasing the number of literacy programs and putting the agriculture curriculum in the hands of even more teachers across the state.

Listen to my interview with Susan here: Interview with Susan Moore

Check out photos from the event here:2013 Farm Progress Show Photo Album

Coverage of the 2013 Farm Progress show is sponsored by Bayer CropScience, Growmark and New Holland

GROWMARK Report on China Demand

Is demand from China really driving commodity prices?

growmarklogoThat was the question that GROWMARK economic and market research manager Kel Kelly set out to answer in a recent research report.

“Overall the report concludes that China does not have the dominant impact on commodity prices that everyone thinks they do,” said Kelly in an AgWired interview. “The primary reason for this is that China simply does not buy enough of our agricultural commodities to have that much impact on price.”

Kelly says that while China’s population is indeed growing rapidly, “China produces the majority of what they consume.”

So, what has been driving commodity prices higher in the last decade? “That is simply massive amounts of money that were originated on Wall Street and injected into the commodity markets,” said Kelly. “That’s what pushing up the prices of all commodities since the early 2000s, including ones that China does not buy.”

Kelly adds that the same reasoning applies to those who want to blame ethanol production for rising commodity prices, that it is not physical demand driving higher prices, but instead is monetary demand from Wall Street.

Click here to read the entire report and listen to Kelly explain some of the major points in this interview: Interview with GROWMARK economist Kel Kelly

AgriVisor Helps Market Grain to Maximize Profitability

Grain marketing in today’s world means diversification and minimizing risk to maximize profitability, and AgriVisor helps farmers do just that. Account manager Cory Winstead says there are several ways they work with farmers. “We work directly with brokerage services and then since 1973 AgriVisor has been putting out general advice with recommendations,” he said. They also work with elevators, offering different products and services that farmers can utilize.

Cory says the grain markets continue to be volatile. “Last year we had the drought which really created volatility in the market,” he said. “This year we still had weather issues like the wet spring … a weather market always creates a lot of volatility.”

The biggest rule for marketing grain is don’t put all your eggs in one basket. “Have a diversified plan,” said Cory. “Know your cost of production so you can make an educated sale at a profitable level.”

Check out the different products and services offered by AgriVisor on agrivisor.com and listen to my interview with Cory to find out more: Interview with Cory Winstead, AgriVisor

GROWMARK FS Websites Get Updates

fs-growmarkThe 35 FS member cooperatives of the GROWMARK system are getting updated websites to better serve their customers and farmer-owners.

“Technology’s changed so much we really wanted to be able to give our members as much of an advantage with their websites as possible,” said Jana Kiefer, GROWMARK Electronic Communications Coordinator, who noted that they have been in the website business with member co-ops for over 15 years now.

Jana says the new platform for the websites allows for both continuity and individuality for the cooperatives. “We like our members to have the same type of theme but at the same time to be able to individualize their sites to fit their customer base,” she said. “So with that we’ve developed templates that members can choose from to build their site.”

The websites will be retaining the important information they have had for the past decade, including weather and markets, while adding the latest social media components like Facebook and Twitter. “Many members have their own Facebook pages that they populate and some are tweeting,” said Jana. “It’s becoming more popular, it’s becoming easier.”

Gold Star FS
and West Central FS have already gone live with their new sites and more are on the way.

Find out more about the GROWMARK FS website update in this interview with Jana: Interview with Jana Kiefer, GROWMARK