We 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!
The 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.
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.
GROWMARK 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
The 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
Our 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.
This 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.
Forty-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
Keeping 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
Last 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
GROWMARK, 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.
“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
You 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
GROWMARK 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
Is demand from China really driving commodity prices?
That 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
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
The 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
The AgriVisor AgFanatics podcast has logged 40 episodes since its debut in December 2012, and quite a few since we last talked to them in March, so we decided it was time to check in for an update on how these two wild and crazy ag guys are doing.
“It’s going great, we’re continuing to gain listeners and we’re continuing to talk,” says one-half of the AgFanatics duo, Cory Winstead, account manager with AgriVisor. They did decide to cut back from two episodes a week to one to avoid having some of the same conversations too often, but he and partner Nick Klump are still having fun with it.
“We’ve gotten some of our best feedback when we’ve spent the first five minutes talking about baseball and our lives and our kids,” Cory said. They have spent a lot of time this year focusing on the weather market for grain, the farm bill and other things that interest farmers, such as crop insurance.
The AgFanatics will be podcasting live from the Farm Progress show this year in Decatur, so be sure to stop by and meet them in person at the GROWMARK tent. You can find the AgFanatics podcast page from the link on the AgriVisor homepage.
Get an update on the AgFanatics in this interview with Cory. Interview with AgFanatic Cory Winstead
The Conservation Technology Information Center tour just completed with a theme of “Community 4 Conservation” this year. Dan Maggart with GROWMARK (pictured to the right, talking to bus load on the tour about what GROWMARK offers in way of agronomic services) explained why his company sees itself as such a good fit as a sponsor for the tour and its theme.
“GROWMARK has a retail arm, where we go directly to the farm gate and make nutrient recommendations to growers, so we’re privileged to be able to use all sorts of tools as far as nutrients, fertilizers, so we just want to maintain that privilege that we’ve had for years and be good stewards of the land, but also the water bodies and the folks downstream,” Dan said.
He said the structure of the CTIC tour in Livingston County, Ill., is a good template that GROWMARK can apply in conservation practices across its core area across the Midwest, but also to their customers that reach to the East Coast and into Canada, as well as nationwide in the U.S. Dan added they make sure their sales force that come to those farms and make recommendations for best business and conservation practices are thoroughly trained to make the best recommendations possible.
“This group has historically done a tremendous job doing that. In fact, there’s 20 years of what we would call on-site training, we have special schools for young crop specialists, and regular updates throughout the year to re-educate and get that message across to our distribution and our retail outlets,” Dan said.
You can listen to Chuck’s interview with Dan here: Interview with Dan Maggart, GROWMARK
2013 Conservation in Action Tour Photo Album
Almost a year ago, GROWMARK’s Total Grain Marketing (TGM) location at Neoga, Illinois completed installation of a groundbreaking mixed airflow grain dryer. with the help of Chief Industries, United Kingdom. Now, GROWMARK Commercial Grain Systems Project Manager Paul Brooks says they are working on constructing another one in Kearney, Nebraska where it will be used for drying organic grains such as blue corn tortilla chips for food consumption.
“The mixed airflow dryer has a little bit different design in how the air and heat passes through the grain columns,” Paul explains, noting that food grade quality or specialty grain drying needs to be at a lower temperature and shorter time period to avoid damaging the internal parts of the grain.
“This particular drying was originally designed and manufactured in Europe,” he said. “It was designed to be more energy efficient and take into consideration emissions for sound and dust.” That’s among the reasons why GROWMARK believes there is a big future for these types of dryers. “Commercial grain elevators are going to be more regulated on emissions,” said Paul. Additionally, the cost of fuel is increasing and it will cost more and more money to dry the same amount of corn. “We’re going to have to look at things that are more efficient and cost less.”
Find out more in my interview with Paul: GROWMARK's Paul Brooks
It’s a great week for the National Council of Farmers Cooperatives to be holding its annual Washington Conference with all that is going on in the nation’s capitol impacting the agriculture industry.
GROWMARK Executive Director of Corporate and Government Relations Chuck Spencer called me from DC this morning to talk about what they are discussing on the Hill and of course the main topic is the farm bill which the full Senate passed last night. “I think a lot of agriculture is supportive of the Senate farm bill program,” he said. “They have the provisions in there that would provide risk management programs that farmers have utilized very successfully” particularly last year during one of the worst droughts in history.
Members of the GROWMARK executive committee will be visiting with lawmakers in the House this afternoon to urge them to get a farm bill passed as well. “The House does have more of a potential for challenge to the farm bill so there may be a tremendous amount of debate regarding food and nutrition programs,” Chuck said, noting that the House bill does have language eliminating the duplicative permitting process for applying crop protection products. “We’ve got to see a farm bill passed. We’ve put it off one year. We need to get to conference committee, strike a compromise so we can have good farm business plans put into place for the next few years.”
The cooperatives also have a big interest in comprehensive immigration reform on the Senate floor this week. “The National Council of Farmer Cooperatives have worked very closely with all of agriculture … to forge a compromise that will pass the Senate and we hope to see it pass the House,” said Chuck. The coops meeting in Washington represent a wide range of agricultural interests that depend on foreign farm labor, including fruit and vegetable growers, dairy producers and the seed corn industry.
Listen to my interview with Chuck here: GROWMARK's Chuck Spencer
Look for some cool new multimedia additions to the on-line version of GROWMARK Spirit magazine coming this year.
“We’re looking at taking Spirit magazine to another platform,” said editor Cassie Becker, noting that it is currently available in an eReader format “where you turn the pages and that’s about it” but they are moving to the ZMags platform which provides more opportunity for interactivity. “This software allows us to input video, photo albums, hyperlinks, any kind of ‘clickability’ in the document that you can,” Cassie said.
The main launch date for the complete Spirit overhaul is December, but Cassie says some of the changes will be implemented before that time. “We’re looking to introduce some of these new features slowly over time,” she said. The magazine is published every two months and you can find it by going to the GROWMARK media center and clicking on the Spirit tab.
Find out more in my interview with Cassie here: Cassie Becker, GROWMARK Communications
Summer is officially underway and for over 60 college students it is the beginning of a great journey as interns for GROWMARK, Inc.
“This is our 54th annual GROWMARK summer internship,” says GROWMARK University Relations Manager Ashley McClintock. “We have 61 interns this summer, representing 16 universities across North America.”
The 12 week internship program encompasses a variety of different areas within the GROWMARK system. “Most of our interns are in agronomy, we have a few in precision farming, seed, dairy, grain or commodities, and then we have a handful in energy and marketing as well,” said Ashley.
Unlike many intern programs, GROWMARK offers paid internships to allow students to not only gain valuable experience and connections, but also help them make a little money in the summer. “We view these as our employees as well and we want to make sure they get rewarded for their hard work,” Ashley explained, adding that the program is really a “mutual 12 week interview to see if these students have a future in the GROWMARK system.” In fact, about 50% of GROWMARK interns go on to become full time employees.
See the list of all GROWMARK summer interns here.
Listen to my interview with Ashley here: Ashely McClintock, GROWMARK intern program
To find out more about the GROWMARK internship program, watch the video below, created by and featuring 2012 interns.
Planting progress is on the minds of the AgFanatics.
In episode #31, the AgFanatics talk with MaxYield Cooperative’s, Karl Setzer, to get his take on the markets and what he’s been witnessing in the northwest part of Iowa. Karl also shares his thoughts on corn planting progress in his area.
Episode #32 features guest host Graham Utter discussing how his own planting progress is coming along, as well as corn and soybean price projection possibilities for the next few years.
The AgriVisor AgFanatics podcast is updated twice weekly and can be found on Itunes or right from the front page at www.agrivisor.com.