By Sarah Gonzalez, Director of Communications and Digital Media
During the 47th annual Country Elevator Conference and Trade Show conducted on Dec 2-4, 622 attendees gathered in St. Louis, Mo., where they discussed the economic outlook for the grain elevator sector, as well as opportunities for leadership and growth in their companies.
In addition, more than 100 exhibitors filled the St. Louis Union Station Hotel, where they met with NGFA members. Learn more about their experience in this video completed by Grain Journal.
Will Secor, CoBank Knowledge Exchange economist, noted during a general session presentation that the year ahead will have a tight supply of storage and capacity for grain elevators, with Illinois and Nebraska having the largest grain storage shortages.
“We’re hearing of a lot of producers using ag bags and opening up bins they haven’t used in years,” he says. “It’ll be really interesting to see how it plays out.”
Secor said the trade environment brings plenty of uncertainty to the economic outlook in the upcoming year, but that a recent dialogue between China and the United States could be reason for optimism.
“As we look to 2019, markets are shifting from supply to demand and the big eye is on trade,” he noted, adding that “soybean exports will be growing, (maybe) just not to China.”
He also emphasized the impact of rising interest rates on the cost of carry and increased transportation costs. When it comes to trucking, diesel prices have declined, but the shortage of drivers in influencing the market, he noted.
Mitzi Perdue provided some inspiring insights from her book on her late husband, Frank Perdue of Perdue Farms, “Tough Man, Tender Chicken: Business and Life Lessons from Frank Perdue,” regarding employee loyalty and leadership. She shared techniques used by the Perdue family to grow Perdue Farms from a father-and-son operation to one that today employs 22,000. One of the key words of wisdom she passed along from her book: “If a culture is weak, people have limited motivation and they work only for money. When values are strong the culture is strong, and people are excited to work there.”
NGFA’s leadership team – including 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 – took the stage for a conversation about running successful agribusinesses and how changes in the economy, recruiting and hiring, and the trade environment will impact the industry. Heck, Wilkey, Baudler and Hoogmoed used the opportunity to take questions from fellow NGFA members, sparking a discussion unique to the Country Elevator Conference.
Attendees also heard from new business entrants in the market – data companies connecting farmers directly to grain buyers. 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, discussed their business models with NGFA President Randy Gordon, who served as moderator and took questions from the audience about how they fit into the existing grain industry framework and their outlooks for their respective companies.
“The value chain is going to become increasingly more connected,” said FarmLead’s Turner. “I think that 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’s more factors that the market is going to ask for and we want to be able to pass that information (along).”
Allen of Indigo Ag, Inc., noted that businesses will continue to use data to target the most competitive customer segments. “Customization per farm transaction is becoming real very quickly,” he said. “It will continue to be more data driven…Businesses will continue to use more specificity to know where to invest their efforts.”
Several of the presentations are available on NGFA’s website, adjacent to each speaker’s name.
During the conference, NGFA also announced the 2018 Grain and Feed Photo Contest winners:
- First place ($500 prize): Madison King of Michigan Agricultural Commodities.
- Second place ($300 prize): Keith Heuring of The Andersons Inc.
- Third place ($200 prize): Jerry Young of Central Missouri Agri-Service.
Join the NGFA next year in Indianapolis, Ind., Dec. 8-10, 2019.