Making the Most of your Marketing Efforts: Reconsider Your Customers Needs

January 2014 | Departments | Manager's Notebook | By Joan Fulton and John Foltz

Today’s business environment is more competitive than ever. As a successful manager in the feed and grain industry, you are actively responding to the many demands of this ever challenging business environment, which likely includes a multifaceted marketing program. It is easy to become focused on all of the immediate decisions that need to be made (such as approving the latest update to your website; finalizing the price quote that is due within the hour, etc.). In this column we invite...

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East Versus West - Again

August/September 2013 | Departments | By Diana Klemme

Frank Sinatra crooned that love is lovelier the second time around. But any repeat of the Drought of 2012 was less than welcome this year and it continues to impact grain flows and basis even as combines roll on the 2013 crop. The good news is all signs indicate elevators will end up with around 3 billion more bushels this season:  Beginning US carryover stocks of are lower this year but total production is forecast to be around 3.4 billion bushels higher. (Corn, soybeans, sorghum, wheat,...

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Trade Partners, Industry Not Warm to COOL

Trade Partners, Industry Not Warm to COOL

October/November 2013 | Departments | Legal Q&A | By Todd Langel & Bradley McKinney

Multiple consumer and industry groups have sought to intervene in the suit in favor of the revised rules. The Plaintiffs have filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, seeking to halt the implementation of the rule before it causes further damage to the industry. The motion was denied on Sept. 11, 2013. In denying the Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction, the Court held that the Plaintiffs failed to demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits or irreparable harm. The...

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Expectations and Leadership: Dont Make them Guess

August/September 2013 | Departments | By Jay Akridge and John Foltz

One weekend, three brothers were building a new deck at one of the brother’s home. (One of the three brothers is co-author of this column.) Running out of weekend to finish the project, tensions started to build as reality began to set in. Then, it started to rain (we are not making this up!)—slowing progress even more. The brother with the least construction experience was working as fast as he could placing joists to support the deck. Unfortunately, he was not performing the task in the...

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A Strong Link in the Food Chain

August/September 2013 | Departments | By Bob Stallman

On July 30, a very significant event occurred for Feed & Grain magazine and the American Farm Bureau Federation.  While technically an acquisition of the former by the American Farm Bureau, I rather like to think of it as a marriage of two very strong brands that are deeply-rooted in the agriculture industry. While each in its own right is important to the agriculture community, both Feed & Grain and the American Farm Bureau Federation are strengthened because of the combination.

So, who...

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Spread Signals

August/September 2013 | Departments | By Diana Klemme

Futures Trading 101 tell us a futures spread is the price difference between two futures contracts. A futures carry is when the deferred contract price is higher than the more nearby month. A futures inverse, or an inverted market, is when the nearby price is higher than a deferred price. Futures spreads can be bought or sold, and have a daily price limit equal to double the daily limit move of the underlying futures.

An important principle of futures spreads is that with storable...

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Leadership Communication Skills: Listening and Being An Empathetic Leader

August/September 2013 | Departments | Elise Schafer

Colin Powell said, “Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” In his book, It Worked for me in Life and Leadership, Powell shares with us rules that he developed, concepts that he found effective, and stories of his life that impacted him and his leadership style.

Good leaders...

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The View From the Starship Enterprise

June/July 2013 | Departments | By Diana Klemme

We can’t buy corn for anything these days,” Mark said to his scale operator, Larry. “If it’s tough in June, what will it be like by August? Is there any corn left out there?”  

Merchandisers and managers across large parts of the country are struggling to buy old-crop corn and soybeans, despite record high basis values. Accumulating a train-load quantity seems a distant memory for many managers, and a few soybean crush plants are already shutting down until harvest due to tight soybean...

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How to Deal with the Aftermath of a Catastrophic Event

April/May 2013 | Departments | By Mark D. Aljets

A grain dust explosion at a facility may be the most traumatic event a grain company will ever face. In the first hours after the explosion occurs, there needs to be a team in place to address all of the issues that literally will be coming at the company in rapid fire succession. 

All of the following recommendations should be ready to be implemented even when the fires may still be burning.  Some of these are common sense observations. Others may be issues a grain company has never...

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How to Utilize Data to Make Management Decisions

April/May 2013 | Departments | By Drs. John Foltz and Joan Fulton

“Figures don’t lie, but liars do figure.”

“Lies, damned lies and statistics.”

Although the definitive source for the first quote is uncertain it has been attributed to several individuals including Carroll D. Wright and Mark Twain. Mark Twain popularized the second quote in the U.S. Anyone who has worked with data knows firsthand how you can come up with a different conclusion depending upon how the data is presented, understanding the first phrase very well. However, numbers and data have...

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Beyond the Scale

February/March 2013 | Departments | By Steve Day

Operations management software can deliver benefits that go far beyond the scale to not only improve the grain handling operations themselves but also streamline back-office functions and improve customer service – from faster weighing processes and traffic flow to speeding up invoicing to improving accuracy and communications.

At a grain handling facility, generating a scale ticket is the first step in managing the operations for inbound and outbound shipments. Operations management...

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Warning: Grain Tsunami Incoming

February/March 2013 | Departments | By Diana Klemme

Grain merchandising is a never-ending series of challenges, and 2012 crop has been that in spades. Drought-decimated corn and soybean crops left elevators with less grain to handle and less revenue. Buyers and sellers alike have had to adapt to record high basis levels on corn and soybeans, tight holding by farmers, and volatile futures spreads. At least wheat offered some reasonable revenue opportunities!

Even bigger challenges lie ahead. September 1 combined stocks of corn, soybeans, and...

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Motivating Employees: Carrots Beyond Salary and Benefits

February/March 2013 | Departments | By Drs. John Foltz and Jay Akridge

Almost all managers have heard (and likely used) of both carrots (rewards and recognition) and sticks (punishments or censures) as methods to work with your employees.  In this column we draw on a recent book entitled, The Carrot Principle, by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton who base their recommendations on a 10 year study of 200,000 managers and employees — where they state that top managers (as measured by performance of their firms on Return on Equity, Return on Assets and Operating...

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Loads of Benefits Delivered by a Transportation Subsidiary

February/March 2013 | Departments | By Stephen H. Paul and Fenton D. Strickland

Whether your business is in the production of feed, the manufacture of pet foods, milling operations — or any other manner of production or processing — you must be able deliver your product to the customer. If a producer does not engage an outside carrier to haul its product, then chances are that one of the most material and burdensome parts of its operation occurs in the maintenance and operation of its transportation fleet.

Improved safety, compliance and tax savings

Running a...

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Are Computers Needed in Agriculture?

February/March 2013 | Departments | Elise Schafer

The world is changing rapidly. When I first took over my mom and dad’s agriculture computer systems business 20 years ago, it was a challenge to get cooperatives and other ag-related businesses to see the advantage of automating their accounting, managing the company’s books with computerized management software.

The systems were shockingly expensive and needed staff to run them. Moving into the late 90s, the challenge was the impression that computer systems only cost money and didn’t...

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