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February 19, 2019 |
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Country Elevator Conference Gathers Industry’s Finest

Trade show, education and networking all aimed at elevating attendees’ businesses

The 47th annual Country Elevator Conference and Trade Show took place on Dec 2-4, 2018, at the St. Louis Union Station hotel in St. Louis, MO. More than 600 people gathered amongst more than 100 trade show exhibits. 

The convention’s general session opened with an economic outlook for 2019 by Will Secor, CoBank Knowledge Exchange economist. Secor gave insights into the corn, wheat and soy markets as well as predictions for truck, rail and sea transportation modes.

“Rail service shouldn’t be an issue in 2019,” Secor says. “There’s no spike in prices for railcars on the secondary market. The main trucking costs are going to be drivers. Availability will be an issue for elevators as well. Trucking is going to cause headaches.” 

Author and widow of Frank Purdue, Mitzi Perdue, addressed the crowd with insights from her latest book “Tough Man, Tender Chicken: Business and Life Lessons from Frank Perdue.” Her message focused on employee loyalty and leadership, including techniques used

“If a culture is weak, people have limited motivation and they work only for money,” Perdue says. “When values are strong the culture is strong, and people are excited to work there.”

Next NGFA’s leadership team took the stage for “Industry Leadership Roundtable Discussion on the Direction of the Grain Industry” about running successful agribusinesses. Speakers included John Heck, senior vice president at Scoular and NGFA Executive Committee chairman; Eric Wilkey, president of Arizona Grain Inc. and NGFA Board chairman; Dave Baudler, managing director of grain at Cargill Agricultural Supply Chain North America and NGFA first vice chairman; and Dave Hoogmoed, executive vice president at Land O’Lakes and president of Purina Animal Nutrition and a past chairman and current NGFA Board and Executive Committee member. They talked about how changes in the economy, recruiting and hiring, and the trade environment will impact the industry. 

NGFA President Randy Gordon then moderated a discussion featuring leaders from new businesses in the market that connect farmers directly with grain buyers. Speakers included Ben Allen, head of food and fiber at Indigo Ag Inc., Devin Lammers, head of commodity crop marketing at Farmers Business Network, and Brennan Turner, president and CEO of FarmLead. 

Gordon took questions from the audience about how these new data management companies fit into existing grain industry framework. 
“The value chain is going to become increasingly more connected,” says Turner. “Five years from now, we’re going to be in a world where we’re not just buying and selling grain. We envision a world where there are more factors that the market is going to ask for and we want to be able to pass on that information.”

In addition, the conference featured six hours of concurrent learning session on topics such as talent recruitment, grain merchandising and digital value chains. The event was punctuated with networking receptions, meals and refreshment breaks. ■

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