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.
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.
A new 110-car shuttle loading facility on the Norfolk Southern railroad near Kankakee, Illinois is up and running just in time for the fall harvest.
The state-of-the-art facility is the result of a partnership between GROWMARK and Heritage FS Eastern Grain Marketing (EGM) that provides additional value from GROWMARK’s investment in Central States Enterprises, a partner firm with significant rail capacity and destination markets.
EGM general manager and Heritage FS CEO Dana Robinson says they are receiving grain at the new shuttle loader from this year’s harvest. “The shuttle loader is a circular track (which is) well over a mile long, about a mile and a half,” said Robinson. “It is capable of handling 110 unit cars at a time, plus four engines.”
Robinson says the new facility is highly efficient. “Each car will be filled from the train loading site and the inspection and the weighing will be going on at the same time as the filling operation,” he said. “The name of the game is speed and that’s what this facility was set up for – both in-bound and out-bound grain – because we get premiums for fast turn around on the unit train.”
The facility is well-positioned to market grain from northeastern Illinois into the Southern markets on both the NS (Norfolk Southern) and the BN (Burlington Northern) railroads. “The BN gives us access to the cattle market in the southwest, Texas area, and the NS gives us excellent coverage for the poultry market in the southeast and the ethanol plants in Indiana and Ohio,” said Robinson.
Robinson provides more information about the new facility in this interview: Interview with Dana Robinson, EGM and Heritage FS
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
At the 2013 Farm Progress Show on Tuesday, GROWMARK announced a major donation of $70,000 to the 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
2013 Farm Progress Show Photo Album
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
Precision farming is all about maximizing profitability for farmers so that should carry over to the marketing of the crop as well.
Grain marketing with precision 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
Kilgus Dairy in Fairbury, Illinois was the venue for the nutrient management portion of CTIC’s 2013 Conservation in Action Tour last week. This part of the tour was sponsored by GROWMARK, Inc., which is a strong promoter of the 4Rs – using the right nutrient source at the right time and right rate and in the right place.
Nutrient management in general is something for which Dr. Howard Brown of GROWMARK has a passion, as we know having interviewed him many times for this site. Howard has been on loan from GROWMARK lately to work as interim nutrient utilization director for the Illinois Council of Best Management Practices and when he returns to the coop, he says his new title will be Director of Nutrient Management and Environmental Stewardship.
Dr. Brown introduced the nutrient management portion of the conservation tour by talking about something very dear to his heart – MOM. “MOM is very important to all of us,” he said. “What’s MOM? Minimize environmental impact by Optimizing harvest yield and Maximizing impact utilization.”
“It’s time for agriculture to step up to the plate and we are doing that,” he continued. “Let’s not give up on agriculture.”
He also talked about the work being done by the Nutrient Research and Education Council (NREC). “Probably a little over $2 million directed toward applied research in Illinois and that’s not governmental dollars, it’s farmer dollars to promote applied research,” said Brown.
Listen to his comments here: GROWMARK's Howard Brown comments
2013 Conservation in Action Tour Photo Album
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
Doing more with less is the theme when it comes to agriculture in general and commercial grain drying is no different.
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 been an interesting year for farmers this year with weather extremes and planting challenges, and bugs are getting in on the act as well.
“We’re running into some interesting things likes true armyworms in wheat and in corn, and seed corn maggots, and all sorts of things,” said GROWMARK Insect/Plant Disease Technical Manager Kevin Black.
Kevin’s number one recommendation for growers is patience. “We’re looking at a number of fields right now that are turning yellow because of too much moisture and some cases where compaction was created earlier because of the rush to try to get crops that were already late in the ground,” he said. “Patience was called for then and patience is still called for.”
Cereal leaf beetle is one pest they have seen in wheat in southern Illinois, which he says is not a real serious threat right now but can be kind of nasty. “The larvae that cause most of the damage have a rather disgusting habit that they cover themselves with their own fecal material to help ward off parasites and predators,” he said.
The best line of defense for growers is scouting. “So many of the issues that we face can be taken care of if we catch them in a timely manner,” Kevin added.
Listen to my conversation with Kevin here: Kevin Black Interview
With all the new communications technology changing the way people get information, GROWMARK Spirit magazine is implementing some exciting new multimedia capabilities for readers.
“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.
Listen to my interview with Ashley here: Ashely McClintock, GROWMARK intern program
See the list of all GROWMARK summer interns here.
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.