Fraud, acquisitions, RFS and a petri dish burger round out the list
We are now in the fifth week of the new Views on the News, and things are starting to fall into place. The goal has always been to have Views done on Monday or Tuesday but in past weeks, the realities of the magazine business have kept me short of that goal. Anyone who has missed any past weeks and would like to catch up on the news over the past month, check out the Feed & Grainblog section.
Even though Purdue University statistics have shown agriculture-related fatalities have been declining, grain entrapment has not followed that trend. No one is sure what caused Charles E. Groh to enter the corn silo located on his farm Aug. 5, but he became trapped in it as it was being filled with grain. This seems to be a gruesome summer as far as grain bin-related fatalities are concerned. We’ve covered it in past posts on Views, but also in the Editors View column of Feed & Grain’s August/September issue. All we can do at this point is to send our condolences to Groth’s family and friends, and remind everyone reading this to be careful whenever you enter a grain bin.
We found this story on BND.com, and I touched on this story last week, but here is the full run down. Bob True Beisley III received false scale tickets from a scale operator at Cargill’s facility. Beisley then used those tickets to claim payment for nonexistent shipments of corn. Cargill noticed that the amount of corn in stock didn’t match the amount reported, and tracked down the perpetrators. In all, the scam reportedly cost Cargill $2 million, Beisley being responsible for just over half a million of that total. The defendant has agreed to pay back the money as part of his plea bargain.
Neither side in the Renewable Fuel Standards debate can really call this EPA report a win. It continues the EPA’s stance that ethanol and other renewable fuels are an important part of its goal for the nation’s independence from foreign fuels. They also admitted that the current requirement to steadily increase the amount of ethanol blended into the fuel supply every year is not feasible. They have extended the mixing plant's time to reach their goal by five months. However, most importantly the EPA has vowed to look into the approaching blend wall, the point where it will no longer be possible to add more ethanol to the fuel supply without going past the E10 blend.
Though this hamburger is being touted as one of the solutions to world hunger, it still has a long way to go before it can compete with the livestock industry. The texture is right, but the burger didn’t measure up tothe domestic cow in taste. The patty is grown with bovine stem cells in a dish with a nutritional solution. The patty is naturally yellow but was dyed red with beet juice. The scientists responsible for the experiment say that adding flavor will be simple; they will simply allow some of the stem cells to form into fat cells. The burger cost $330,000 to produce, and was funded by Sergey Brin the co-founder of Google.
The Andersons, Inc. is acquiring Mile Rail LLC in order to increase its ability to repair and clean railcars. Mile Rail is headquartered in St. Louis, but has branches across the Midwest, and The Andersons are looking for ways to expanding their reach as a company. It also adds the ability to repair tank car repair to their repertoire, which will boost the rail care maintenance of The Andersons’ profits by 25%. Other than that, it seems to be a very straight-forward acquisition even though this is the second major acquisition by The Andersons, Inc. in as many weeks.
We had some great stories this week. Email me if you have any story ideas, comments on what news you want to hear about, or just to say "Hey." Subscribe to Industry Watch, follow us on twitter or like us on Facebook for all the latest news in the industry.
There has been a lot happening around the Feed & Grain office over the last few weeks, but there’s always time to reflect on last week's news, most of which focused on cash flow — in terms of benefit payments, business deals and theft.
This scandal couldn’t have come at a worse time for the U.S. Agriculture Department. Auditors say that the USDA paid over $32 million to 4,537 dead farmers. The USDA maintains that the auditors are blowing this out of proportion and that many of those payments were properly made to the descendants of the deceased but were recorded incorrectly. We may never know what really happened, but there is no doubt that this comes at a bad time. Many are misinformed about how farms receive benefits from the current farm bill. Many outside of the agriculture field see it as unnecessary spending. As the recent attempts by the House of Representatives to rein in the EPA shows, there are those in Congress who think that government agencies are out of control, and are looking for any opportunity to cut more out of their budgets. Given the current climate, efforts should be taken to curb these payments, even if the $32 million is only a fraction of the USDA’s $20 billion annual budget.
The Andersons, Inc. and Lansing Trading Group LLC started the acquisition of Thompsons Limited in early June and proceeded with the deal rather quickly. Both companies will own 50% of Thompsons Limited. If you are a customer, it should be business as usual. Thompsons Limited will continue to operate under its own name and serve the same areas. The only real change is that Lansing Trade Group’s trading office in Chatham, Ontario, will be merged with Thompsons.
The GMO debate has gone from stirring under the surface to boiling over in the past few months. New bills requiring labeling are rapidly popping up on the state-level — Illinois is the newest state to wade into the debate, doing so just this week. This is quickly becoming a national issue, and the biotechnology companies are trying to reach out to a population that is turning against GMOs. The well-made website seems to have experts who want to politely give answers to questions. However, this is the Internet, and a polite debate will only last until the first post in the comment section is made.
Our weekend readers must have been catching up on newsletters because this was our top story last week. For some reason, there seems to be a lot of news coming down the pipe about people stealing in agriculture. This week I read about two men who drove off with two trucks full of 50 tons of soybeans and the breaking news lead in Industry Watch’s Aug. 8 edition was about a man who tried to defraud Cargill Inc. out of half a million dollars. With today’s feed and grain facilities employing sophisticated automation systems in their receiving, shipping and billing, it isn’t very likely that these types of crimes will go unnoticed for much longer.
Agriculture is doing well right now, and even with the start of the season getting off to a wet start, the United States is still expected to have a banner year with both corn and soybean crops. And with demand only expected to increase, it makes sense that we see agriculture companies both big and small breaking ground on new projects. This 5-million-bushel shuttle loader/grain elevator will be near Randolph, NE, and is a joint venture between Archer Daniels Midland Company and Central Valley Ag Cooperative. It is expected to be up and running next fall, and who knows, maybe it will be on a future cover of Feed & Grain magazine.
Thanks for reading! Email me if you have any story ideas, comments on what news you want to hear about, or just to say "Hey." Subscribe to Industry Watch, follow us on twitter or like us on Facebook for all the latest news in the industry.
Few can appreciate managing change like you, our loyal Feed & Grain readers. In the more than two decades spent in the industry, I’ve witnessed mergers and numerous expansions into new markets, and through it all, our industry made quality service and a customer-first attitude its top priority.
Using that work ethic as our inspiration, the Feed & Grain team you’ve grown to know — and our new team members you will come to know — promises its continued dedication in serving our industry in many new and exciting ways.
I am excited because we now are part of an organization with a significant footprint in agriculture. Feed & Grain (remember Feed & Grain Times?) was one of the founding trade magazines in a company that, when I launched my career here, generated about 75% of our revenue from magazines related to agriculture.
One of the great things about business, though, is being able to sit at a table with bright people who share focus, knowledge and purpose within a specific market. The Farm Bureau brings that by the railcar load!
I’m looking forward to working with a new team, learning as I go, and leveraging our knowledge so that we can continue to grow and continue to meet or exceed your information needs.
I’ve been asked, of course, if I am nervous. Sure, there’s a bit of anxiety with change. I’ll miss many of the people I’ve shared cubicles and offices with. But the heart of what we do is deliver the information you need, want and value. We help advertisers, exhibitors and sponsors achieve your communications objectives. We bring audiences and those who wish to communicate with you together around a shared information need. This has been our business model for many years and will continue to be now and in the future.
If you have any questions or comments regarding our new ownership under the American Farm Bureau Federation, please don’t hesitate to email me or call (920) 563-1628. I would be happy to hear your feedback.
Good news everyone! The August/September issue of Feed & Grain has been sent off to the presses. You can expect your issue in just a few weeks. For those who don’t get a physical copy of Feed & Grain, the digital edition will be on the website shortly.
I’ve been following this story for months, and every time I bring it up, it elicits the same reaction. “What?” followed by “Who steals corn?” Well, that’s what these three men did. Cody Samuel Lasiter has not pleaded nor had a trial yet, but according to statements from Arno Gene Graves and Daniel Duane Moon, the other two men involved, this is what happened: After the plant’s hours of operation and on weekends, Moon would drive his truck up and Graves and Lasiter would fill it with corn. Graves and Lasiter would then falsify the records and Moon would drive it down the road to another grain elevator and sell it. They ended up stealing a staggering amount of corn — more than 12 million pounds, estimated to be worth $1.5 million. That’s a lot of money, but Graves and Lasiter claim they only got a few hundred dollars a load. Either way, they’re facing at least a few years in prison.
Being the face of GMOs can’t be fun these days with things heating up over the controversial issue. That was the case when Monsanto withdrew its bids to sell some of its GM seeds with the European Union. The company cited its reasons as a lack of demand, slow approval process and that they were content to sell their non-GM seeds. Those all sound like good reasons to me, but some anti-GMO sources around the internet seem to think Monsanto is running scared.
This shows just how much these accidents can affect the industry. Our top story from last week makes another appearance this week. We once again, we wish to extend our condolences to Roy L. McCarty’s family and friends and to remind you that it only takes an instant to be engulfed in grain. So, please be safe out there. Have a harness, lifeline and observer anytime you enter a grain bin.
The Smithfield deal is rubbing a lot of people the wrong way. The only ones that seem to support it are Smithfield’s board of directors and Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd. So far, Smithfield has had to deal with government inquires, their own shareholders calling them out and even small share owners suing. Smithfield makes a good point. They are a business, and their job is to make as much money as possible. They insist that this will not allow Chinese pork into the United States (which is good given China’s suspicious food safety record), but that still means more of our pork will be shipped out of the country, leaving us with the byproducts. Only time will tell if this is a national security risk, like some are suggesting.
This is a fairly standard business story, but with a very large business. Southern States Cooperative® is restructuring their wholesale and retail business in order to make them more efficient. This story does follow a theme in modern agriculture, the focus on efficiency. Everyone is scrambling to feed an estimated 9 billion people by the year 2050 (which we are not projected to make at current improvement levels), and efficiency is one of the top weapons in that fight. Hopefully this change in structure gets us closer to feeding all those people.
I want to remind you to email me if you have any story ideas, comments on what news you want to hear about, or just to say "Hey." Subscribe to Industry Watch, follow us on twitter or like us on Facebook for all the latest news in the industry.
Welcome to the second week of the new Views on the News. I hoped to have this recap done earlier in the week, but I've been busy getting the August/September issue of Feed & Grain ready for you, so this post will be straight to the point.
I’m fairly new to the industry, but I’m told that once the weather heats up, news of grain bins deaths/injuries rise. I’m also told that this year is worse than normal. Our condolences go out to Roy L. McCarty’s family and friends. This story along with No. 5 on our list reminds us of just how dangerous an industry agriculture can be, and how easily a task that someone has done countless times before can kill them. So please, for everyone reading this, remember to be careful and follow best practices when you have to get into a grain bin. For safety tips to avoid grain engulfment, check out this article. Also, be on the lookout for a story on the new OSHA sweep auger regulations in our August/September issue.
This next story was talked about in last week’s "Views." But as of this update the bill still hasn’t gone to conference. With August recess around the corner, it doesn’t look like likely that we’ll be getting a farm bill soon. But many associations are encouraging those in agriculture to reach out to their representatives and let them know that the farm bill has not been forgotten and that a simple extension is not acceptable. So, call our email your representative this August, I will be.
The GM wheat that was found in that field in Oregon seems like old news. There are still lawsuits pending and the USDA investigation is ongoing, but after the USDA announced that no more GM wheat seemed to have entered the field or supplies, the story was over for most. Except for Japan, who is still uncomfortable accepting shipments of U.S. western-white wheat. A Japanese team met with the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and even though he felt confident about the meeting and said that exports would be accepted in early August, Japan has only said that it’s still a concern.
United Cooperative and Hillsboro Farmers Cooperative’s potential meager is a story that hits quite literally close to home. For those that don’t know, Feed & Grain is based out of Fort Atkinson, WI, a modest rural town in the southern part of the state. And the United Cooperative headquarters in Watertown, WI, is just a hardy stone’s throw away. So it’s always nice to see the local area making big news. This merger will make the new co-op more efficient at providing for its members, as well as give them a larger voice on the national stage, both good things for Wisconsin farmers. Hopefully it gets approved soon, so it can start that mission as soon as possible.
We started with tragedy and we end with it as well. This is an older story, posted in late April, but sill on the minds of many in this part of the country. With so many deaths happening lately, many people have been looking at those we’ve reported on in the past. We send out our deepest condolences to Jerad Guell’s family and end this recap by once again asking that you be safe out there.
I want to remind you to email me if you have any story ideas, comments on what news you want to hear about, or just to say "Hey." Subscribe to Industry Watch, follow us on twitter or like us on Facebook for all the latest news in the industry.
Feed & Grain's new editor shares personal happiness, sorrow over recent tragedies.
I recently celebrated my five-year anniversary as a full-time employee of Cygnus Business Media, Feed & Grain magazine's former parent company, and nearly simultaneously reached another milestone in my career: being named editor of Feed & Grain.
Over the past five years, I have worked for several Cygnus publications in various industries (all while serving as part-time Feed & Grain staffer), but I always felt most at home among the folks in the feed and grain sector. Through my travels as associate editor to trade shows, conferences and facilities, I've had the opportunity to meet many of the amazing professionals who help make agriculture the fine engine of prosperity that it is today. From our readers, to the trade associations that represent you and the equipment suppliers, everyone I've met has been welcoming, hospitable and eager to share their insights with me.
So, naturally I'm thrilled to be advancing my career within a group of people that I admire and genuinely enjoy being a part of. That’s why my joy can’t help but be dampered by sadness over the high rate of grain-related accidents we've had this summer.
By mid-July, an Illinois man had died from grain engulfment while working at a cooperative, two men were injured in an elevator explosion in Nebraska and a farmer died near Dayton, OH, trying to empty a grain bin. In June, two men in Indiana died from separate accidents at grain facilities, one involving grain engulfment and an explosion at another. But it started in April, when an ethanol plant worker died by grain engulfment in Milton, WI — a town halfway between my commute from home to Feed & Grain's office. In fact, through "six degrees of separation," I was acquainted with the young man who lost his life. A church in my town held a benefit for his widow and child.
Up until then, I had only read about such tragedies in the news — it never hit close to home on a personal level, but this accident highlighted how in touch I am with this industry. I'm not just an observer, or a mere reporter of your events. I live in the same type of community as you do and experience the same ups and downs that come with being entrenched in agriculture.
And while I don't know the circumstances surrounding these accidents, and I am in no way placing blame on anyone, I do want to bring attention to OSHA's new "stop sign" for the grain industry, which serves as a simple reminder to check all hazards before entering a grain bin.
At the recent Interconnectivity Conference, held June 26 and 27 in Altoona, IA, several important themes were discussed that will directly impact your business. While I am sure many of you are aware of these trends and needs, there were a few key aspects that need to be tied together.
First, your business as an ag retailer demands that you stay up to speed on all aspects of prescription farming and precision agriculture. Terry Panbecker, manager of Midwest Agronomic Professional Services at New Cooperative in Iowa, pointed out how not only are they providing more and more advanced technology support to their farm customers, they’re also providing technology to other co-ops wishing to grow their technology-as-a-service business.
Second, Carolyn McBeth, a farmer from south-central Iowa, pointed out that while their farm’s original goal was to add acres to build a future for their children to farm, that objective has switched to getting more from each acre, rather than adding acres. Dr. Mike Swanson, ag economist for Wells Fargo, urged attendees to grow bushels not acres.
Third, there will be volatility in weather and in transportation (as I’ve mentioned before), all of which can impact your costs and your customers’ ROI.
What’s it all mean? Feed & Grain magazine and FeedandGrain.com have always focused intensively on providing information about state-of-the-art construction, which you’ll see reflected by this issue’s cover story. We’ve talked about progressive remodeling efforts that make feed and grain facilities safer and more efficient. And I am bragging a bit here, but I think we’ve become a key resource to help you generate ideas and find products that offer solutions.
A B2B publication doesn’t stay relevant for 50+ years (like Feed & Grain has) without reacting quickly to the market it serves, so, recognizing that many of our ag retailer readers are relying heavily on technology today, we’re reacting with more coverage on how you can become what McBeth called “a trusted advisor” — referring to Jeff Graff, who provides integrated solutions (technology) in his role as her John Deere dealer.
With that preamble, please read about Cooperative Producers, Inc.'s CPI 300 program, an internet-based program that helps farmers grow more yield from the same field. And stay tuned for your copy of the August/September issue of Feed & Grain, where CPI-Lansing, a joint venture between Cooperative Producers, Inc. and Lansing Trade Group, is featured on the cover with its new shuttle loader facility in Fairmont, NE.
We’d like to know more about how you’re becoming a key part of your customers’ team(s) for profitably improving yields. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your feedback could end up in a future issue of Feed & Grain.
Steven Kilger explains the the new format, along with last week's federal goings-on
I’m going to start this blog by introducing myself. My name is Steven Kilger, the new assistant editor here at Feed & Grain. I'm also the guy who’s been putting together our Industry Watch newsletter for about a month or so. I read agricultural-related news for about half of my work day, until it’s almost bursting from me (seriously — it’s becoming all I talk about.) So, we figured that I should have a blog to share my thoughts, and so I can stop boring people.
My goal is to make this section of the site my own, starting with the update frequency. This is now a weekly blog. The goal here is to have a place where you can get caught up on the important news in agriculture in one convenient place. My goal is to have the blog out every Tuesday afternoon, a goal that I have already failed, but there’s always next week.
I’m also changing the format; from now on “Views” will cover the top news stories of the previous week along with my take on them. Much of that news can’t go into Industry Watch for space or context reasons, so I sometimes have some content that doesn’t make it to the newsletter. I also have all of the stories linked at the bottom in a convenient list format.
The top story of last week was once more the Farm Bill. The Republicans in the House of Representatives passed a bill without any nutrition programs attached to it, which they say will be taken up later. I say Republicans because the bill passed without a single Democrat’s vote, among warnings that the Senate won’t approve a bill without Nutrition Assistance attached, and a threat to veto from the president. I can’t see into the minds of our elected officials, but it seems like the House is doing something just to make it look like they’re doing something. Even when they go into negotiations with the Senate, the moment Nutrition Assistance gets added back in, The House will vote against it when it’s brought back for a final vote. The most likely outcome when this is said and done is another continuation of the 2008 Farm Bill.
The second most popular story was about the Food Safety Modernization Act beingimplemented. After the FDA was sued by theCenter for Food Safety, they have been forced to set a timeline for publishing all of the new rules required by the act. Everything should be published by June 30, 2015. As far as feed is concerned, those rules should be out late this year to early next year.
The federal government takes up the third slot as well, with the USDA getting sued by the meat packing industry over the new meat labeling rule. The new labels require packagers to note where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered. Like labeling for GM products, this is foreseen as a logistical nightmare. It will require much more in-depth record keeping for what the industry are calling a needless concern. It will also cost millions of dollars to design and implement the new labels, which will then be passed on to the consumer.
Layoffs are always a topic that invokes passionate views. It’s easy to be empathic with an employee who gets laid off, not because of performance, but because their company was bought out. That’s what happened here. Conagra bought Ralcorp in January and the people being fired held duplicate positions. It’s hard to blame Conagra for this— it’s just business — but still sad for those getting let go. Feed & Grain wishes them the best of luck.
This story was a bit of a surprise for a two reasons: Plant openings aren’t usually very popular, and this is a foreign plant. We are an international publication, of course, but our main readership is in the United States and Canada. The big news with this plant is that it is now the United Kingdom’s largest single-source supplier of animal feed and can supply a third of its bioethonal demand. It goes show just how much the refining process has advanced; it can now get so much out of the raw materials they use.
With so many changes and uncertainty with regulations from the federal government, we’re all anxious about what will happen next. Here at Feed & Grain, we’ll do our best to keep you up-to-date on all of the important regulations being debated in Washington, D.C. In the meantime, feel free to email me anytime. Tell me what you think, what you would like to hear about, story ideas or just to say hi.
Old but good communication advice for feed and grain business managers
In flipping through old issues of Feed & Grain, I ran across a Manager's Notebook from 2007 that, although only six years old, had me nearly laughing at how archaic it sounded. It was about effective communication for feed and grain businesses, and had a section dedicated to email. The authors provided a definition for the term "spam" and suggested using filters to remove such unwanted content. They went on to advise creating folders to help organize and reduce clutter from the remaining messages. It even mentioned the "You've got mail!" reminder that AOL made famous in the 1990s. It's hard to imagine a time when this everyday knowledge was foreign to anyone.
Back then, email was one of the few applications feed and grain business managers used their computers for. Today, those same managers are likely receiving and replying to emails constantly via their smart phones and tablets and use computers for more complex tasks, such as running facility operations, accounting and customer service. A lot sure has changed since "Communicating in the Feed and Grain Business" was published.
However, tucked within this seemingly elementary email tutorial, there were a few nuggets of advice that still resonate today, including the tip to not read and answer emails all day long. Authors, John Foltz and Christine Wilson, wrote:
"For many people, email can almost become an addiction — where they feel a need to constantly check it ... but almost all emails do not need to be answered immediately. A good email management strategy is to set aside particular times each day when you will look at your email and answer it. Perhaps it is to read it three times a day (first thing in the morning, right after lunch, and right before you leave in the evening.)."
This advice is perhaps even more relevent today as we are literally tethered to devices that deliver emails instantly. Urgent messages are easy to identify, and can and should be replied to immediately, but otherwise, try to dedicate your time to managing your facility/business/firm — espeically early in the morning, the authors pointed out.
"Don't answer your email during your most productive time of day. Many people are most productive first thing in the morning, when they are wide awake and ready to face the day. Answering email is not typically a task that takes a lot of creativity, so you might consider leaving it until late in the day. This will free up time when you can be most efficient with things that need sharp mental prowess — such as management, personnel and finance decisions."
Their last tip worth noting is so simple it's easy to forget — use good ettiquette. Again, these may seem basic, but who couldn't use a brush up on their email ettiquette? Foltz and Wilson outlined eight key points:
"Be concise and to the point
Answer all questions so as to preempt further questions
Use proper spelling, grammar and punctuation
Make it personal
Don't attach any unneccessary files
Do not write in CAPITALS (it's considered shouting)
Read your e-mail before you send it
Do not overuse 'Reply to All'"
Please feel free to test your application of these e-mail tips by dropping me a message about yourself and your feed and grain operation. I am always looking for reader feedback and story ideas. Do you have any tips for better managing your time?
Both corn and soybean basis levels found strength this week as tight farmer selling and the prospects of a late harvest next fall push basis levels up. Spot corn basis was up 2 cents a bushel while soybean basis climbed nearly 4 cents a bushel for the week.
In corn, basis levels at ethanol plants were a key driver this week as 10 to 15 cent gains were fairly typical across NE, SD & IA this week. In addition, shipping along the flooded IL river last week seemed to ease this week which lifted river terminal basis levels by a dime or more at key terminals.
For soybeans, export business continues to slow which pushed basis levels down at most river facilities over the past week. On average, river terminals were off 3 cents a bushel. At domestic soybean crushing plants, basis levels were unchanged for the week, but Eastern Cornbelt soybean plants seemed to see some strength with 10-cent gains fairly typical in this region.