Surviving and Thriving in Challenging Times
By Shana Hilgerson
On March 24, 2017 Iowa State University Women in Ag welcomed 76 producers, agribusiness professionals and industry friends to Surviving and Thriving in Challenging Times, A Grain Marketing Forum for Women. Eleven speakers covered topics ranging from watching the weather to using options. “The guest speakers were uplifting as well as informative. They encouraged women to keep learning because small improvements over time will lead to confident and profitable grain marketing,”said Madeline Schultz, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Women in Ag Program Manager. The event was hosted with Landus Cooperative, Hertz Farm Management Inc. and Farm Credit Services of America.
Schultz kicked off the morning session and introductions with Tom Guinan, Vice President of Landus Cooperative. Julie Ward, Vice President of Commercial Sales at RJ O’Brien, delivered the keynote address, “Grains in the Veins.” Ward spoke about her accounting experience with Cargill elevators and the biofuels and software industry at RJ O’Brien. She gave a personal report on grain merchandising, understanding the industry and how we all learn from each other.
ISU climatologist Dr. Elwynn Taylor discussed the weather’s effect on crop production and grain markets. ISU Extension economist Dr. Chad Hart shared some of the recent trends in grain markets and explained the importance of international trade.
Over lunch, participants had the opportunity to hear from Dr. Cathann Kress, ISU Extension and Outreach Vice President. Kress explored the importance of ISU Extension and Outreach’s 99-county campus in rural Iowa.
The afternoon break-out sessions included presentations by experts in crop marketing, contracts and cooperative resources.
A panel of three women grain marketers discussed how they manage to market their own grain while balancing it with family relationships and farm work. Some of the women revealed that marketing grain can be a bonding experience with their husbands, while others found it a good aspect to keep separate!
To end the day, capstone speaker Angie Setzer discussed how to watch the market. Setzer, Vice President of Grain for Citizens LLC in Charlotte, Michigan, was a lively speaker who really gave the women a positive outlook on how to handle the grain market. Angie’s position allows her to help farmers focus on their bottom line during the heat of sales. With many great points and a few jokes, Angie gave us more than a handful of take-aways.
Setzer advised participants, “Remember, you grow it to sell it, don’t become too attached to your harvest –the elevator is not your enemy, the services they provide are mutually beneficial and your brokers and operators are more than happy to discuss options with you.” Lastly, Setzer urged us to be knowledgeable about our local markets and not to assume anything. Insights on basis and how to manage options were provided, and an informative and exciting capstone rounded out the afternoon.
“I am so impressed by the women attending the grain marketing forum. Everyone was having fun, but they were also very serious about learning new skills and doing a good job of marketing,” shared Schultz. This year’s grain marketing forum was a successful event for Iowa women to interact and ask questions while learning about the business of grain marketing. We hope to see many returning faces, along with many new ones, at a similar event next year. Surviving in challenging times can be difficult, but with so many knowledgeable and supportive professionals in our community, we will continue to thrive.