Mighty Mississippi Rolling Along

bargesAt the beginning of this year, closing the Mississippi River to barge traffic as a result of low water levels was a very real possibility, but that crisis has been averted thanks to some Army Corps of Engineers work.

“There was an emergency move by the Army Corps of Engineers to blast rocks out of the river floor at Thebes and Grant Tower, Illinois,” said Tracy Mack, director of bulk and packaged goods logistics for GROWMARK. “That added about two feet to the navigable channel between Memphis and St. Louis.”

gmk-mackThat project was complete by the beginning of February, sooner than expected, and some timely rains also helped. “Because of the recent rains and the forecast rain right now, we’re not in imminent danger of closure,” Tracy said. “It’s looking that we have enough water to get us through the month of March at least if drought continues.”

It was a different situation when Tracy was a guest on the AgFanatics podcast in early January so he is glad it has improved.

Listen to my interview with Tracy here: GROWMARK's Tracy Mack

AgFanatics Dish on USDA Report

agfanatics-2The AgFanatics were in their element last week talking about the USDA Supply & Demand report. Episode #11 on Tuesday last week caught them in pre-report speculation mode, and Episode #12 was recap and reaction to the report for the market.

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

AgFanatics #10

agfanatics-2The AgFanatics celebrated their 10th podcast this past week with some good ‘ole fashion back and forth market discussion. Cory joins from the road on this episode, as the guys touch on news from the CME regarding trading hours, weak ethanol numbers, and South American weather and logistical concerns. Also, Cory finally gets his chance to tell the world about what he enjoys doing in his spare time!

AgFanatics can be found on Itunes or right from the front page at www.agrivisor.com.

Becker in New Position with GROWMARK

Cassie BeckerCongratulations to Cassie Becker who is moving into the Publications and Media Relations Specialist position at GROWMARK effective February 1, 2013.

In her role, Cassie will serve as the primary journalist/photographer/videographer and managing editor of the GROWMARK Spirit and Growing Forward. Additionally, she will be responsible for creating and producing various publications, multi-media, and institutional materials and developing and implementing public, member, and media relations activities.

Cassie joined GROWMARK in 2011 as a Public Relations Associate. Prior to that, she served as an Intern for the Corporate Communications department. Cassie has her Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Communications from the University of Illinois.

AgFanatics Talk Crop Insurance

agfanatics-2With co-host Nick Klump under the weather last week, Cory Winstead picked GROWMARK plant food risk management analyst Graham Utter to guest host AgFanatics episode #9 on Crop Insurance.

The guys talk Crop Insurance and bring in the expert Bob Dewey of Country Financial to discuss and answer some questions. They discuss things from Revenue Protection to base price and Yield Protection. Also will prices increase or decrease this year??

AgFanatics can be found on Itunes or right from the front page at www.agrivisor.com.

AgFanatics Market Talk

agfanatics-2Cory Winstead and Nick Klump with AgriVisor have a new AgFanatics podcast discussing export and domestic demand along with other market related topics. The guys also touch on evaluating your marketing plan setting targets and reevaluate the plan. Also we learn about not only one but two things Nick does in his spare time.

Listen here – AgFanatics #8 - Market Talk

AgFanatics can be found on Itunes or right from the front page at www.agrivisor.com.

AgriVisor Has AgFanatics Podcast

agfanaticsCory Winstead and Nick Klump are AgFanatics and they are not afraid to tell the world about it.

AgFanatics is a new podcast from AgriVisor.com, an agricultural advisory firm that is part of the GROWMARK family of companies, and Cory and Nick are the happy hosts making stuff like Farm Bill, Fiscal Cliff, the river situation, marketing and USDA reports fun and interesting!

“You will notice we have a good time doing what we do,” Cory says. “The best part of this is we are starting to get a good number of listeners in just our short month of doing this.”

AgFanatics can be found on Itunes or right from the front page at www.agrivisor.com. It is a 15-20 min program updated on Tuesdays and Thursdays that touches on a variety of agricultural topics. We will be featuring them here on AgWired as well.

Here is the latest one: AgFanatics #7 - Risk Management Tools

GROWMARK System Makes Aquisitions

growmarkGROWMARK, Inc., Bloomington, Ill., announced an agreement has been reached to acquire Meier Oil Products., Inc., and Manito Transit. Meier Oil Products, Inc. and Manito Transit have been a family owned business since 1936 and their business has consisted of a trucking company, a fuel terminal facility in Ashkum and bulk fuel facilities at Kankakee, Pontiac, Sheldon and Champaign, all in Illinois.

The acquisition strengthens the GROWMARK System through collaboration between Evergreen FS, Heritage FS and Illini FS and GROWMARK Energy.

GROWMARK Excited About N-Watch

Ag journalists on the GROWMARK media tour in Iowa last month had the chance to learn about N-Watch, which started this year as a small scale, pilot program by GROWMARK in partnership with FS Member Cooperatives.

The objectives of the program are to quantify the form of available, soil-applied nitrogen (N), where it is located, and what happens to the concentration of available N over time in the upper 0-12 and 12-24 inch profiles of the soil.

“We go out after harvest and take an inventory of plant available nitrogen,” explained GROWMARK Agronomy Services Manager Dr. Howard Brown. “Once we have that determination, we take composite samples after that every 2-4 weeks, track the nitrogen until it freezes, then after it thaws in the spring we’ll continue to pull the samples to see if the residual nitrogen is still there.”

Brown says it’s not an exact science, “but it’s a move in the right direction, this is what we need to be doing.” GROWMARK has over 45 sites in Illinois now and they are now moving in to new sites in Iowa, where we heard about the program last week during a GROWMARK media tour.

GROWMARK is so excited about the N-Watch concept that they want it to spread quickly. “We came up with the phrase (N-Watch) but we gave the license to the Illinois Council for Best Management Practices so that it can be utilized in the Midwest,” said Howard. “It would be great if everybody used N-Watch.”

Howard held a little impromptu news conference at the Machinery Shed in Des Moines to tell us all about N-Watch. Listen to Howard’s overview of N-Watch here and watch him in the video below: Dr. Howard Brown, GROWMARK

New GROWMARK Dry Terminal in Iowa

The first loads of fertilizer came in this week to test the new GROWMARK dry terminal in Stuart, Iowa but earlier this month I joined some of my fellow ag reporters in climbing to the top of the 15,500 ton facility. Notice it was all females – left to right, Rita Maloney of Illinois RFD Radio; Deanna Thomas of WMBD in Peoria; and Carrie Muehling of WJBC in Bloomington – with me. The guys on the trip declined to make the climb.

The facility will handle granular urea, monoammonium phosphate and white potash. It has capacity for 18 railcars with six 10 ton hoppers, five micro hoppers and a blending capacity of 300 tons per hour.

In the video below, GROWMARK Plant Food Operations Manager Brian Hundman provides a behind-the-scenes look at the new facility in its nearly complete stage. You can also check out photos from the media tour last week in the photo album and hear more about it in this month’s Precision Pays podcast, sponsored by Ag Leader Technology.

GROWMARK Iowa Media Tour Photos

GROWMARK Cookbook Helps Feed the World

GROWMARK cooked up a great way to help farmers feed the world this year by compiling a cookbook filled with recipes contributed by GROWMARK employees and selling it to raise money for the an important charity.

“We wanted to do something special this year to promote the International Year of Cooperatives and GROWMARK’s 85th anniversary,” said Karen Jones, GROWMARK’s Publications and News Specialist, who explained that they came up with the idea for the cookbook as a way to allow everyone in the system to participate. “We decided it would be really neat if we could sponsor a charity with the proceeds from the cookbook and we decided on Farmers Feeding the World.

There are over 1100 recipes in the cookbook, which was sold for $20 each. “We are going to be making a donation of $1500 to Farmers Feeding the World in the next few weeks,” Karen said. “The organizations that Farmers Feeding the World helps out are organizations that we really believe it.”

Karen says there are no plans at the moment to do a second printing of the sold out cookbook, but the recipes are being made available through social media. “On our FS Pintrest boards, we do have a recipe board and we are posting recipes on there occasionally, so even if you didn’t get a chance to buy a book you can still get a few of the best recipes that way,” she said. To find those recipes, go to Pinterest.com/FSservices.

Listen to my interview with Karen here: GROWMARK's Karen Jones

GROWMARK Iowa Media Tour Photos

GROWMARK Marks Record Sales

GROWMARK has officially reported record sales for the last fiscal year, according to recently released complete financial results.

Higher commodity prices and solid volume growth in most GROWMARK business units produced record sales for GROWMARK, as officials reported audited financial results for the fiscal year which ended August 31, 2012.

Marshall Bohbrink, vice president, finance, risk management, and chief financial officer, reported net sales of $10 billion for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, the highest in company history. Net income attributable to GROWMARK was $243 million, the second highest level in history. Total patronage in the amount of $158 million was returned to GROWMARK member-owners, also a company record.

GROWMARK also shared a good amount of that income with an important program for education about agriculture.

GROWMARK and its FS member cooperatives recently renewed its commitment to Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom programs with $75,000 in support. At a recent meeting of the Illinois Farm Bureau Board of Directors, GROWMARK CEO Jeff Solberg shared thoughts on the GROWMARK System’s ongoing efforts to support agriculture and agriculture education and literacy.

“GROWMARK and Illinois Farm Bureau have an 85-plus year relationship of mutual respect and support. Teaching young people about agriculture has been a common bond throughout our historic relationship. As more Americans are further removed from the farm, bringing the facts about farming to students at an early age is vital,” Solberg said. “We are proud to support Illinois Farm Bureau’s Ag Literacy efforts, as they are at the forefront of bringing that message to students, who in turn share their new-found knowledge with their parents.”

The Advantage of AgVantage FS

The first stop on the GROWMARK media tour through Iowa last week was in the little town of Chapin, just south of Mason City, where the main work horse grain facility of AgVantage FS is located.

The facility handles 10-12 million bushels a year – about 40% of the co-op’s total. “We’re an operating division of GROWMARK,” explained Grain Marketing & Operations Manager Kevin Gray, pictured below left with regional grain manager Barney Bartels. “We cover 32 counties, 27 in Iowa and five in southeast Minnesota, stretching from the Mississippi River to Alexander on the west side.”

Kevin says the co-op covers a large geography with 14 grain elevator locations. “Customer service is the number one priority for us,” Kevin said. “We want to keep our customers profitable, we want to make sure they’re competitive, we try to reduce their risk and we want to make doing business with AgVantage grain division as comfortable and easy as possible.”

Listen to my interview with Kevin here: Interview with Kevin Gray

Despite the drought this year, the facility still managed to bring in quite a bit of grain, since the impact of the drought on the region can be summed up in one word – variable. “We’ve seen a range from 30 bushels per acre (corn) to basically 130 bushels per acre,” said Barney. “You go to the south, we’ve seen a range of 100-200 bushels an acre.”

Barney says the original bins at the Chapin facility were put up in 2003, with another 2.2 million bushels of space added in 2006. Grain from the AgVantage FS supplies a number of ethanol plants in the region and much of it is sent southwest for dairy markets.

Listen to my interview with Barney here: Interview with Barney Bartels

For more detail, listen to Kevin’s overview here: AgVantage FS Chapin Grain Facility

GROWMARK Iowa Media Tour Photos

GROWMARK Media Tour in Iowa

Just returned from a great media tour of GROWMARK and FS Cooperative facilities in Iowa. Unfortunately, I was unable to make the last stop due to flight scheduling, but I did get to attend the majority of the tour and it was fantastic! Congrats to Karen Jones, GROWMARK Publications and News Specialist, for putting together a very interesting and organized event.

Our stops in Iowa included the AgVantage FS grain facility in Chapin, the GROWMARK Ft. Dodge Fuel Terminal (where this photo was taken), and the brand new – soon to be opened – fertilizer facility in Stuart. The stop I missed was New Century FS in Vinton.

I got lots of great interviews to share in the coming days and weeks, as well as some I will be getting from my colleagues on the trip, but you can enjoy the photos now by clicking on the photo album link below. Thanks again to GROWMARK for allowing us this opportunity – it was a blast!

GROWMARK Iowa Media Tour Photos

GROWMARK supports Farm Safety 4 Just Kids

GROWMARK generously supports the non-profit organization Farm Safety 4 Just Kids in their effort to keep youth safe in rural areas. GROWMARK provides their customers with agricultural products as well as the means to deliver, market, and store those products. “GROWMARK’s sponsorship of Farm Safety 4 Just Kids demonstrates their commitment to their curstomers,” David Schweitz, executive director of Farm Safety 4 Just Kids. “And it will help us ensure the safety of the next generation of farmers.”

Farm Safety 4 Just Kids was created in 1987 by Marilyn Adams after the death of her 11-year-old son. The organization works to raise awareness about the health and safety hazards that are an inherent part of the rural environment in which children live, work, and play. Over 130 chapters in the United States and Canada conduct safety and health programs within their communities.

Thanks to the support of agri-business sponsors like GROWMARK, Farm Safety 4 Just Kids is able to provide their volunteers with up to date and pertinent safety education and demonstration resources.

Savings in the Tank for GROWMARK Lubricants

The Viscosity Index (VI) Improver Solubilizer being lowered into the remodeled section of the GROWMARK lubricants facility in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

You’ve probably never heard of a VI Improver Solubilizer Tank, but if you use any of the quality lubricants marketed by GROWMARK, it makes a difference.

The VI (which stands for Viscosity Index) Improver that was installed in GROWMARK’s remodeled Council Bluffs lubricant facility has helped them to improve productivity and efficiency in lubricant blending, according to Craig Stout, director of lubricant operations. “We were outsourcing the solubiilzing of the viscosity index improver and there was a cost to that so we have significant savings for manufacturing our own products,” Craig explains. In addition, they are now able to do that job for other companies.

GROWMARK purchased the Council Bluffs facility in 2006 to better serve their agricultural customers who need lubricants for tractors, grain hauling trucks and other engines. “GROWMARK has been marketing lubricants probably since lubricants were needed back in the ’20s but we never had our own manufacturing facility,” he said. “It’s allowed us to have more control over the products that we make and be in more control of the quality of the raw materials that we use.”

In addition, Craig says they have upgraded laboratories to test all the products that they make as well as doing used oil testing for customers. GROWMARK’s market for lubricants has expanded beyond their base of agricultural cooperative members across the board to truck fleets, industrial applications, manufacturing facilities and even into the mining industry.

Listen to my interview with Craig here: GROWMARK's Craig Stout

Importance of Cooperatives in Feeding the World

“Co-operatives are a reminder to the international community that it is possible to pursue both economic viability and social responsibility.” Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General

That is a quote on the official United Nations 2012 International Year of Cooperatives web page and the UN Secretary General’s visit to the 2012 World Food Prize last week indicated the importance that they place on agricultural cooperatives in feeding the world. Agricultural cooperatives, already enriching millions of small-scale farmers, could expand and make an even greater contribution against poverty and hunger, according to the World Food Programme.

Amy Bradford with GROWMARK attended the World Food Prize last week to engage with attendees from over 70 countries and find out what more the Illinois-based farmer co-op can do to help increase global agricultural productivity. “We are involved in cooperative education, most recently in Ghana, working with local farmers there to form cooperatives,” Amy said. GROWMARK is also hosting a group of Brazilians this month to share with them how working together really does improve their long term profitability. “How it can help collaboration, how it can help them get the inputs they need to grow food for a growing population,” said Amy. “We help educate farmers and others about the value of cooperatives and what that brings to the table in terms of raising incomes and socioeconomic impact.”

I ran into Amy right after the Global Agricultural Productivity (GAP) report was released, and she said she would be sharing that report with GROWMARK farmer members to help them see areas of the world where they could help provide education on cooperatives. Incidentally, GROWMARK is also helping to feed the world with the GROWMARK cookbook which was sold for $20 each this year and proceeds donated to Farmers Feeding the World.

Listen to my interview with Amy from World Food Prize: Interview with Amy Bradford, GROWMARK

View the World Food Prize Photo Album here.

AgWired coverage of the World Food Prize is sponsored by Elanco

Agricultural Cooperatives Key to Feeding the World

We have now gone from Blog Action Day to World Food Day 2012. The FAO says that agricultural cooperatives are the “key to feeding the world.” They are the focus of this World Food Day.

The official World Food Day theme, announced each spring by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), gives focus to World Food Day observances and raises awareness and understanding of approaches to ending hunger.

“Agricultural cooperatives – key to feeding the world” is the formal wording of the 2012 theme. It has been chosen to highlight the role of cooperatives in improving food security and contributing to the eradication of hunger.

Interest in cooperatives and rural organizations is also reflected in the decision of the UN General Assembly to designate 2012 “International Year of Cooperatives.”

Learn a little bit more about how cooperatives are accomplishing this goal of feeding the world in an interview Cindy did with GROWMARK President Dan Kelley.

Celebrating National Co-op Month

ZimmCast 366Each October, cooperatives across the United States celebrate the cooperative difference, business model and the contributions of cooperatives to their communities during National Co-op Month and this year continues the celebration of 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives with the slogan “Cooperative enterprises build a better world.”

As one of the nation’s largest cooperatives, GROWMARK has been celebrating all year long, so we talked with president and chairman of the board Dan Kelley about why co-ops are so important for agriculture, both nationally and globally. Dan says he was surprised to learn this year that nearly a billion people around the world are members of some type of cooperative. In addition to celebrating a year and a month dedicated to cooperatives, Dan says GROWMARK has been celebrating 85 years of existence as a cooperative.

Listen to this week’s ZimmCast with Dan here: ZimmCast with GROWMARK President Dan Kelley

We are also celebrating Co-op Month with our ZimmPoll this week, that asks What cooperatives play a role in your life/business?

Thanks to our ZimmCast sponsors, GROWMARK, locally owned, globally strong and Monsanto, Roundup Ready Plus, for their support.

The ZimmCast is the official weekly podcast of AgWired. Subscribe so you can listen when and where you want. Just go to our Subscribe page.