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Sharpen Your Competitive Edge

March 2, 2011

More than 900 people attended our annual Top Producer Seminar in January to learn about issues impacting agriculture and to gather tips to sharpen their competitive edge.

Young farmers 35 and under kicked off the event with our Tomorrow’s Top Producer program, and the momentum built throughout the week, capping with our Top Producer of the Year Award banquet.

The following excerpts are highlights from this year’s exciting event. Mark your calendar now for the next Top Producer Seminar, to be held Jan. 25 to 27, 2012.

Indiana Farmer Wins Top Producer of the Year 2011

Top Producer recognized three farmers for their entrepreneurship and excellence in the business with its Top Producer of the Year Award, presented by Challenger and cosponsored by Asgrow, Bayer CropScience and SFP. The award was given in Chicago on Jan. 26.

Jim Kline of Hartford City, Ind., won the 2011 award. Kline got an early taste of farm ownership when he rented land and bought his first farm while in high school. Today, he farms 7,500 acres of corn, soybeans and seed wheat.

In 2006, Kline invested in a joint farming venture in Brazil that currently focuses on eucalyptus, a crop he and investors found to be more profitable than soybeans. While Kline has successfully
expanded his farming operation, he has also faced personal setbacks.

He lost his wife, Suzie, in 2006 after a long illness. In the midst of his grief, Kline continued to build the farming operation and raise two children. He remarried in 2007 to Lou West. Together, they serve on many community boards and mentor local youth. They also publish a farm newsletter that goes to landlords and suppliers.

As the 2011 Top Producer of the Year, Kline is awarded a new Challenger MT700 Series Track Tractor for 200 hours or six months and a trip to the 2012 Top Producer Seminar. Kline and
finalists also received an iPad, courtesy of Asgrow; a Toughbook computer from Bayer CropScience; and a digital camera package from SFP.

Risk Escalates in New Ag Landscape

High commodity prices are good for grain producers’ pocketbooks, of course, but they also increase risk factors that you must guard against to successfully ride financial waves. For example, when Russian grain demand doubled in the early 1970s, corn prices went from $1.50 to $2.50 and even $3. "That shifted risk up and nearly doubled volatility," says Sterling Liddell, vice president, Rabo AgriFinance.

"In 2006, we started to see the same kind of event, and with it higher prices and volatility," he adds. "Risk has changed."

In recent years, ethanol has played a role in boosting corn prices, but it introduces risk because it links commodity prices to the price of energy. Outside investors are putting money into agriculture, introducing new risk, Liddell adds. As a result, the S&P 500 is becoming increasingly important to crop prices.

Meanwhile, supply and demand have fundamentally changed. For example, the Black Sea area has substantially increased grain production—19% of the growth in grain production in the past 10 years has been from this area, Liddell says. As a result, what happens in Russia, Ukraine and surrounding countries has increased global price volatility.

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FEATURED IN: Top Producer - March 2011



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