Grower marketing clubs were developed in the 1970s and '80s to help producers get their feet wet in making real or simulated commodity trades. Some clubs slowly wilted away for various reasons. Many still thrive. But few can claim the success the one in Adams County, NE, has enjoyed for more than 25 years.
“We just keep on going,” says Mark Keiser, president of Adams County Bank in Kenesaw, NE, about 100 miles west of Lincoln.
The club meets every Wednesday morning at either the bank or the Heartland Co-op branch in nearby Juniata, with a regular attendance of 12 to 15 people. Growers, other ag lenders, county agents and elevator personnel don't just show up for free doughnuts, sticky buns and coffee. They are there to learn about virtually anything that can impact their crop or livestock production.
Johnny Reiners, who farms near Juniata, has been a long-time member of the club. He got involved like others to learn more about marketing and receive input from others facing situations similar to his.
“I contract more of my grain these days,” says Reiners, whose family has farmed his land for more than 113 years. “I also use puts and call options to help get my corn and soybeans marketed. Sometimes I pick up some good information from the marketing club that can help me.”
Lynn Chrisp, another Juniata grower, is also one of the early users of the club. He is part of the National Corn Growers Association public policy action a team. “It's amazing how strong our club remains,” says Chrisp.
One of his unofficial marketing club duties is to relay information he receives from his NCGA position. “There are 14 of us on that policy team from different states,” he says. “It's amazing how much good information comes out of it. I like to pass that information along to the marketing club.”
Chrisp says the main value of the club is its regular weekly schedule, on Wednesdays at 7:30 a.m. sharp. “The regular meeting gives us an opportunity to come together for an hour to analyze the markets, information we have and the direction it (grain markets) might be going,” he says.
“It's not like we come together as a group, then go home and take the same position. It's a matter of taking the information and applying it to our own operations.”
Reiners says the consistency of the weekly club meeting helps participants rethink their marketing plans and other decisions on the farm.
“When a guy gets busy he often doesn't think about marketing,” he says. “But by going to the marketing club every week, you kind of refocus your marketing ideas. Sometimes you see the market moving one way or another based on information you receive at the club meeting. You can take advantage of it.”
As a “veteran” club member, Reiners is often called upon to review how particular marketing situations or other areas of farm management have been handled in the past.
“They consider me a ‘senior’ member of the club,” he says. “We can look back at history and see what we have run up against, the timing of marketing and things like that.
“Last fall we reviewed the LDP situation and decided that when it was in the 40-48¢ range for corn it was time to get the LDP locked in. Discussing the LDP and its seasonal range helped us make that decision.”
Reiners' son Jason is also a member of club. “He's been farming about 10 years,” says Reiners. “He has his land and I have mine. We share our machinery and labor. He takes a more aggressive approach than I do in marketing his crops, which he has learned from me and the marketing club.”
Keiser has been part of the club since he joined Adams County Bank in the mid-'80s. “We basically accomplish two things with the club,” he says. “First, it's a social deal that the farmers appreciate. Then it involves reviewing several marketing and production related newsletters.
“We also keep track of the government farm program, as well as things like multi-peril insurance, energy costs, irrigation costs and other water issues. We've had Extension personnel update us on the latest in irrigation, which has become essential in our area corn and soybean production.”
The club has met long enough for members to be able to handle some friendly “harassment” from others regarding marketing recommendations. In between newsletter review might come some mid-week quarterbacking for their beloved Nebraska football team. But when there are definite trends in corn or bean prices, or other matters that will eventually impact the market, all kidding is aside.
“There's a lot of idea sharing,” says Keiser. “I do think that if growers hear that three others are taking a position, it can steer them along, too.”
There have even been some club field trips. They once toured a lumber mill in Kenesaw. Plans are being made this year to visit new ethanol plants going up in Nebraska to learn more about the use of corn in the plants and the potential for a new market for Nebraska corn. Trips to Wyoming coal mines are also being kicked around.
Keiser sees continued growth and strength in the club, due to long-time members like Chrisp and Reiners.
“There are five or more members who have been part of the club from the beginning,” says Keiser. “Of course some growers have dropped out over the years. But we've picked up quite a few others. It is actually getting bigger.”
The growers and Keiser encourage others to get involved in a marketing club, something more than just coffee-shop talk.
“You always learn something at a marketing club meeting,” says Reiners. “Our club has really paid off for me over the years.”
“Someone always seems to have some new information that can help,” adds Chrisp.
“When we aren't reviewing our own information, we have outside speakers,” says Keiser. “The marketing club is a forum that can really help all of us.”
The Adams County club sometimes receives new information from the Nebraska Cooperative Extension Service. Most states have marketing clubs that receive direction and input from Extension marketing specialists. To learn more about marketing clubs in your region, contact your regional Extension marketing specialist.