ADTN screen is the first thing you see upon entering the lobby of Adams County Bank. The people there take ag marketing seriously.

So seriously that the Kenesaw, NE, bank has hosted the local ag marketing club for more than two decades.

With direction from bank president Mark Keiser and vice president Gaylin Prior, the club helps corn, soybean and livestock producers stay in tune with what national marketing analysts are saying. A club marketing contest also helps participants keep up on using futures and options as marketing tools.

“We continue to have 12-15 farmers who keep the marketing club going,” says Keiser. “We like to think they don't just come here for free doughnuts and coffee.”

The group discusses market conditions and how prices may be impacted by weather or other factors, adds Prior, who works out of the bank's Juniata, NE, office. “We usually hear reports from various growers on what Brock Associates, Pro Farmer or other marketing services are recommending. This past spring saw a lot of discussion about how the farm bill would impact us.”

In the annual marketing contest, each participant fictitiously markets 100,000 bu of corn using whatever strategy he or she wants.

“For the 2002 crop, all of the corn must be marketed by Feb. 1, 2003,” says Keiser. “They must have 70% of it sold by Oct. 1. This helps keep growers informed of how puts, calls and other marketing tools work.”

Marketing clubs have grown in popularity the past six or seven years, when growers, bankers and university specialists started seeing the need for increased marketing education. One program, the Master Marketer plan developed by Texas A&M University, has helped educate producers and others on advanced uses of marketing tools. In turn, many students returned home to help form or revive marketing clubs in their areas.

“There are 65-75 clubs in Texas,” says Steve Amosson, an extension economist in Amarillo. He's also new project director for the National Center for the Master Marketer Educational System (MMES), which was written into the new farm bill. The bill encourages expansion of the system into states with regional training centers that will coordinate risk management educational programs.

One state that has modeled its Master Marketer program after Texas is Minnesota. The state boasts of at least 50 such clubs, many the result of Master Marketer training, says Ed Usset, grain marketing specialist for the University of Minnesota Center for Farm Management in St. Paul.

“Marketing clubs benefit growers in many ways,” says Usset. “They continue to gain knowledge. They gain confidence in the use of futures, options and a slew of new cash marketing tools available for marketing grain.”

The new national MMES currently includes a Montana program along with Minnesota and Texas. Unlike a 60-hour Master Marketer course, the new programs are one- or two-day sessions that concentrate on a single topic.

“We'll have one-day sessions limited to developing, say, pre-harvest or post-harvest marketing plans,” says Usset. “Or we will have a two-day session on advanced futures and options.”

Amosson believes advanced topic programs will expand into other states and yield strong results. “These aren't your typical two-hour talks on the ‘market outlook,’” he says.

Adds Usset: “Marketing is an ongoing educational process. Like Master Marketers, these sessions should help promote local marketing clubs.”

For more information on the MMES programs or on developing a marketing club, call the UMN Center for Farm Financial Management at 800-234-1111, or go to www.cffm.umn.edu/pubs/MasterMarketerBrochure.pdf. Also, check out the Texas A&M Master Marketer site at mastermarketer.tamu.edu/.