Checking in with the AgFanatics

agfanatics-2The 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

GROWMARK: CTIC Support is Being Good Stewards

ctic-13-dan-maggartThe 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

GROWMARK Sees Demand for New Grain Dryers

gmk-dryerAlmost 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

Farmer Cooperatives on the Hill

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.

ncfc-dc-13GROWMARK 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

GROWMARK Getting Into Multimedia Spirit

gmk-spiritLook 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

GROWMARK Interns Journey to Great

growmark-internsSummer 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.

AgFanatics Talk Planting Progress

agfanatics-2Planting 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.

Social Connections to GROWMARK

GROWMARK and FS are excited to make it easier than ever to make connections on social media.

growmark-connect“We are excited to add social features to our website,” says GROWMARK Corporate Digital Strategic Development Manager Heather Thompson. “Users will now see the ability to like and follow GROWMARK and FS right on our homepage.”

That includes links to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo and Pinterest. “We launched GROWMARK.com in a redesigned version just before we started actively pursuing social media so we didn’t have the chance to incorporate a lot of social features,” said Heather, noting that instead of doing another complete redesign, they just added those features into the website.

Heather says that social media has proven to be a great tool for them to connect with the members and customers. “We really enjoy the opportunity to connect with people on a more personal level than we had in the past with traditional media,” she said.

Listen to my interview with Heather here: Heather Thompson, GROWMARK

NAFB Watching Washington

NAFB Washington WatchIt’s time for National Association of Farm Broadcasting members to gather in Washington, DC for their annual Washington Watch program. It has been a few years since I’ve attended but thanks go out to GROWMARK for making it possible this year!

We’ll kick off activities this afternoon with the Issues Forum. It’s kind of like a mini Trade Talk with representatives of many different organizations attending and available for interviews. I’ll do as many as the time allows and be sharing them with you. The Issues Forum session is sponsored by the Renewable Fuels Association. You can find a list of all sponsors here (pdf).

I’m going to miss the evening’s Press Club dinner with a representative of the World Wildlife Fund. Don’t think I’ll be missing much with that.

Tomorrow morning we meet up at USDA and will be speaking with a number of department heads including the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack. It looks like Wednesday morning will be all about the Farm Bill as we hear from different members of the Senate and House where their versions of the new legislation are going through mark ups.

So that’s where in the world of agriculture I’ll be this week. See you from there.

Nutrient Management with Late Planting

fieldwaterPlanting progress continues to be slowed by wet and cold weather in most of the major corn producing states.

According to USDA
, just 5% of the U.S. corn crop was planted as of Sunday, only a percentage point of difference compared to the previous week. Last year at this time, nearly half the crop was in the ground and normally at least 30% should be planted by now. All 18 major corn producing states are behind the five year average and five have nothing in the ground yet. Another half dozen have less than 3-4% planted.

grandinJohn Grandin, Senior Field Sales Agronomist at GROWMARK, Inc. says that while planting is definitely running behind normal in the Corn Belt, it’s nothing to worry about just yet.

“We’re not behind the eight ball as far as we’ve missed out on all the growing degree days,” said Grandin, who adds that field work is progressing in his area of Iowa.

Grandin stresses the importance of sticking with the original plan when it comes to nutrient management. “If the original plan calls for spring-applied anhydrous ammonia, then stick with spring-applied anhydrous ammonia,” he said.

However, Grandin points out the possibility of burning corn roots or even killing the seedling if application is followed too quickly by planting. “We can manage that by putting the anhydrous ammonia on at an angle to the direction of row planting,” he said. That will help decrease the possibility of free ammonia being trapped in the knife track as a result of wetter soils. “We don’t want to be planting directly on top of the anhydrous knife track for any length of row.”

Listen to this interview with Grandin to find out more: GROWMARK agronomist John Grandin

The Latest from AgFanatics

agfanatics-2Check out the latest AgFanatics podcasts, for your listening pleasure

In episode #27, the AgFanatics talk with Dr. Gary Schnitkey with the University of Illinois to get his analysis on the American Farm Bureau Federation’s farm bill proposal.

Episode #28 discusses the reason behind the recent market failure. Also, is there some debate as to how much grain is actually being shipped out of South America??

The AgriVisor AgFanatics podcast is updated twice weekly and can be found on Itunes or right from the front page at www.agrivisor.com.

An Earth Day Message

print-emailGot an email today from an employee of GROWMARK with a great message that I wanted to share for Earth Day week.

I’m sure you’ve seen email signatures saying something like “Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail!” This one is a little different.

Notice: It’s OK to print this e-mail.

Paper is a biodegradable, renewable, sustainable product made from trees and corn starch. Growing and harvesting trees and corn provides jobs for millions of Americans. Working forests are good for the environment and provide clean air and water, wildlife habitat and carbon storage. Thanks to improved forest and agricultural management, we have more trees and corn in America today than we had 100 years ago.

I love it! Planning to add it to my email signatures in the future. How about you? Thanks GROWMARK!

Why GROWMARK Loves NAMA

nama13-amyAt the National Agri-Marketing Conference last week I had the chance to catch up with Amy Bradford, GROWMARK manager of corporate communications, to find out why NAMA is important to them.

Amy says the opportunity to network with others in the industry, but even more important is the support of future agri-marketing professionals. “NAMA is very supportive and committed to developing youth leaders,” Amy said, noting that both Illinois State University and the University of Illinois student NAMA chapters took part in this year’s student competition. That is an important component for GROWMARK, which has a very strong internship program that helps them recruit future employees.

GROWMARK is active in NAMA on the chapter level in the Heartland chapter and Amy says they do enjoy being able to receive recognition for good work through the awards program, but it also gives them a chance to get new ideas. “I was involved in judging the NAMA awards this year and you do get to see new ideas, new products, new ways to communicate those products and services,” she said.

Amy adds that she strongly encourages young professionals getting into the agri-marketing field to get involved in NAMA. “Because it does connect them to other people in the industry where they can build friendships and relationships and share ideas and grow themselves personally and professionally,” said Amy.

Listen to my interview with Amy here: Interview with Amy Bradford, GROWMARK

2013 Agri-Marketing Conference Photo Album

AgFanatics Talk Farm Bill

agfanatics-2For episode #25 of the AgFanatics podcast, Doug Yoder, Senior Director of Affiliate & Risk Management at the Illinois Farm Bureau, shares his insight into where the current farm bill stands and what he sees happening moving forward. Listen closely to the numbers Doug provides regarding crop insurance premiums and payouts. Also, Doug shares a little bit about what he enjoys doing in his spare time.

The AgriVisor AgFanatics podcast is updated twice weekly and can be found on Itunes or right from the front page at www.agrivisor.com.

AgFanatics Talk About the Markets

agfanatics-2In the newest AgFanatics podcast, our friends Cory and Nick give some explanation as to what has caused the significant retreat in grain prices, after last Thursday’s USDA report. What does the future hold and what could we see in next Wednesday’s WASDE report? Tune in to find out!

The AgriVisor AgFanatics podcast is updated twice weekly and can be found on Itunes or right from the front page at www.agrivisor.com.

Fuel Quality Management for Spring

gmk-dehnerOne of the biggest investments in any farm system can be the fuel. And as gas and diesel prices continue what seems to be a steady climb upwards, making sure that investment is protected just makes sense. That’s where our friends at GROWMARK come in. Marketing manager of refined and renewable fuels for GROWMARK, Mark Dehner, explains that sometimes that fuel can be stored longer than originally intended in tanks that are quite old, and unwanted particulates can form.

“The new engine technology of today, the tolerances, are very much tighter,” with a difference of just a few microns; no room for any kind of foreign material, Mark says. “It’s very, very important that the fuel is particulate-free,” whether it’s fuel oxidization, the deterioration of the fuel itself, or rust or corrosion particles.

Mark goes on to say that it’s not a necessarily sophisticated process and sometimes boils down to just checking the fuel and tank periodically for a water bottom and any debris or sludge that forms over time. GROWMARK even has a fuel tank cleaning process. “We call it polishing the fuel,” and the method for cleaning the diesel uses a two-filter system to remove particulates and make the fuel ready for customers to use.

“Not only do we want to be the supplier of the fuel gallon to our farm customers and fleets, but we want to make sure we’re good stewards of their investment. It’s just part of the offering we have throughout the FS System.”

Listen to Cindy’s interview with Mark here: Interview with Mark Dehner, GROWMARK Fuel Quality Management

Meet the AgFanatics

agfanatics-2We’ve been promoting the AgriVisor AgFanatics podcast for a couple of months now here on AgWired and I finally got a chance to get the two hosts of the show on the phone to find out more about them.

The AgFanatics are AgriVisor Account Manager Cory Winstead and AgriVisor Risk Management Specialist Nick Klump and they started the podcast back in December.

AgFanatic Cory Winstead

AgFanatic Cory Winstead

“It’s something I had been wanting to do and thought it was a good opportunity to share ag news in a fun and informative way and have a good time,” Cory said about starting the show, noting that they sit next to each other every day and talk about stuff so they wanted to show to be like that – just two people conversing about the markets, risk management, the weather, and whatever impacts agriculture.

AgFanatic Nick Klump

AgFanatic Nick Klump

Even though the podcast is barely three months old, AgFanatics has already established a very solid listener base. “It’s been good feedback so far, all positive,” Nick said.

The AgFanatics give a great deal of credit for the production of the show to Alan Jarand and RFD Radio Illinois who encouraged them from the start. “He said you guys can use my studio, I’ll help you,” Cory said. “Once we did it the first time, he said I’m holding you accountable to come down here and do this every week. If it weren’t for him we may have only done three shows and stopped because of the difficulty of it. He’s been a huge asset to have.”

Listen to my conversation with the AgFanatics here: Interview with AgFanatics

AgFanatics Live From Commodity Classic

agfanatics-2The AgFanatics were live from the Commodity Classic in Florida last week where they discussed what’s causing the recent spike in old crop futures and what the next few weeks look like ahead of several key USDA reports. That was Episode #14 in the can already!

In Episode #13, the guys discuss what’s been new in the grain markets, possible port strikes in Brazil, and their thoughts on price direction. As always, it’s live, un-edited, agricultural discussion!

The AgriVisor AgFanatics podcast can be found on Itunes or right from the front page at www.agrivisor.com. You’ll love these guys!

Sequester Monster is Coming

sequester-monsterThe impending deadline for “sequestration” has taken on the character of a looming cataclysmic event or awakening of a sleeping monster in a horror movie – a monster with an axe aimed at all government spending.

Sequester is scheduled to take effect on March 1 and so far Congress has made no effort to prevent the across the board spending cuts from taking place. I talked with GROWMARK government affairs director Chuck Spencer to find out more about the Sequester Monster.

Chuck explains that sequestration traces back to the Budget Control Act of 2011 requiring Congress to come to an agreement on deficit reduction by the end of 2012 – or else there would be cuts to all defense and non-defense spending. “There are exemptions within the provisions, obviously Social Security, veterans affairs, some nutrition programs,” he said. “Those cuts for sequestration can range anywhere from 10 percent in some discretionary defense programs to 7.8% for non-defense discretionary programs.”

gmk-chuck-spencerNo one really knows what the reductions would mean but Chuck says there are those who believe that with the ballooning federal deficit, drastic measures are needed. “Households when times get tough are able to cinch the belt up and make things work, why can’t government do the same?” he said.

One proposal to avoid sequestration comes from the Democrats who are suggesting taking all the needed cuts – $55 million – from defense and agriculture. The reasoning behind taking half from agriculture is ending direct payments, which is supposed to be done whenever a new farm bill is completed. Chuck says one problem is that those cuts would take effect immediately, and the current farm bill that was extended through September includes direct payments for this season. “Many farmers have incorporated their management plans for 2013, we’re coming up on spring planting season, and a change in that type of program – particularly for crops in the southern part of the country – would be very difficult to deal with,” he said.

Listen to my interview with Chuck here: Chuck Spencer, GROWMARK

GROWMARK is a Job Creator

gmk-systemThe GROWMARK system continues to do its part to help the economy by creating jobs and they want to make sure they reach all the possible potential candidates for those jobs.

GROWMARK University Relations Recruiter Allison Biggs says they recently made some improvements on the Careers portion of the GROWMARK website to make it easier to find available jobs and internships with a link to Job Search on every page. “The buttons we have added to the main careers page talks about all the different divisions of GROWMARK,” said Allison. Those areas include Accounting & Finance, Agronomy, Communications & Marketing, Energy, Grain, Logistics, Information Technology, and more.

Allison says GROWMARK currently has 234 jobs currently posted. “We have about 7,000 employees system-wide,” she said. “They would be in a variety of areas, either in our corporate office in any of our divisions or in one of our regional companies.” Many of the jobs are seasonal right now, but there are lots of permanent positions listed as well.

Listen to my interview with Allison here: Allison Biggs, GROWMARK