Wyoming Ag Marketing: Priebe offers new options to growers
Priebe offers new options to growers
Riverton – “It may sound strange, but I love grain,” says Scott Priebe, and when he moved to Wyoming in 2010, Priebe stuck with what he knew and what he loved and opened Wyoming Ag Marketing, a company that stores and markets grain for Wyoming producers.
Located north of Riverton, Scott and his wife Emily, a Riverton native, started with an existing grain elevator and began to build a business that offered a unique opportunity to producers in western Wyoming – open grain marketing.
“Our motto is ‘Connecting Profit to Production,’” comments Priebe. “We assume growers like to produce grain, and we assist them in being profitable marketers.”
After they were married in 2009, Priebe says they met with the previous partners of the elevator in January 2010. By that March, he was selling barley seed.
“The first year, we were still farming in Indiana and running the elevator,” he comments. “This year will be our fourth harvest.”
Priebe notes that he and Emily put their heart and soul into the operation, selling land and farm equipment to get it started. Another critical component to their initial success was the support of former owners and employees who remained a part of the operation.
When Scott and Emily purchased Wyoming Ag Marketing, its primary commodities were barley and wheat.
Through Scott’s expertise in grain, and specifically corn, they have been able to expand the elevator offering and the corn market to western Wyoming growers that had not had a local corn delivery point.
Today, they handle malt barley, spring wheat, winter wheat, and corn. In addition, they provide barley, wheat, and alfalfa seed to growers.
The Priebes have also developed the facility to increase efficiency by building additional load out bins and finding homes for grain in markets without rail sites.
The facility was primarily built to handle malt barley. With the addition of other grains, the elevator has now been equipped to properly handle multiple grains at the same time. Additional bins have given growers more options of what they can produce on their farms.
Bins were not the only addition the Priebes brought to Wyoming Ag Marketing. They hired Taylor Engum, who serves as the operations manager and a crop consultant for FieldPro, a separate enterprise. Taylor is instrumental in the operational aspects of Wyoming Ag Marketing.
“Emily and I could not ask for a better partner than Taylor. He is great asset to our business and the community,” Priebe comments.
Nuts and bolts
At the elevator, Priebe says they start in the spring selling seed. As it moves through to harvest season, the elevator gets busier.
During harvest, growers bring their grain to the elevator, where it is weighed and tested. Samples are taken from each truck and tested.
“We do several tests with our samples,” says Priebe. “With the corn, we look at test weight and moisture.”
The market trades at 56 pounds per bushel, he adds. Any weight above 56 is good.
They also determine moisture content of the corn.
“The market trades at 15 percent moisture,” Priebe explains. “If it has higher moisture than that, we put air to it and take out the excess moisture. Moisture, test weight and yield on these new hybrids has been excellent the last few years.”
For barley and wheat, they test weight, moisture and protein content.
“The protein is really important,” says Priebe. “We try to ship at about 14 percent protein for wheat. For barley, we want lower protein.”
The optimal percentage of protein for malting is between 7.5 and 13 percent. When barley comes in at higher than 14 percent protein, it is considered feed barley.
Protein levels reflect the stress, such as heat and drought, that the crop went under.
“Last summer, we had higher protein than normal,” Priebe comments. “In a normal year, we don’t have any issues. Wyoming is very good barley country.”
Loading and unloading
After grain is tested, growers unload. The grain travels on a conveyor to the appropriate silo, where it is stored until it is sold
“We are set up to store grain to meet growers’ marketing needs,” says Priebe, noting that grain is stored until the grower wants to market the product.
Longer storage windows give the grower more time to market their crop.
When grain is sold, it is loaded onto trucks for shipment. The product is gravity-fed from bins and travels on a conveyor until it hits the leg, where it is transported up to the load out bins.
“Trucks pull under the load out, pull the cable and six minutes later, they are full,” Priebe says, adding that they have calculated how long it takes to fill a truck for each grain. “The way this facility was designed, dumping and loading are very easy. It is low maintenance and doesn’t require a lot of labor.”
“The hardest part about what we do is getting trucks to the right places at the right time, finding grain, marketing grain, managing risk and making sure it happens seamlessly to insure prompt payment to growers.” Priebe adds.
“Western Wyoming, traditionally, has raised a number of contracted crops,” Priebe explains. “We have expanded open market grain marketing in this region. Growers can price grain any time throughout the year, based off what the futures markets are doing, putting the marketing in the growers’ hands.”
In order to keep growers educated on prices, they send out releases on new reports and relevant information.
“We send out information so growers can make an educated decision on when they would like to sell,” he comments.
Whether a grower wants to sell within 30 days or the next few months, Priebe notes that they strive to find the best price for grain. To achieve that goal, he keeps a constant eye on grain markets.
As dent corn has been introduced into the western Wyoming market Priebe has found that quality is similar to what would be found in the Midwest, thus the end users of the corn are very satisfied with the quality.
“Our growers do an excellent job to meet the needs of the market place, and produce a high quality product. We have seen that in corn, barley and wheat,” Priebe remarks.
Benefits to growers
“Our goals align with the goals of a grower,” says Priebe. “We have a fixed cost of this facility, and they have a fixed cost per acre of ground, so if they are going to be more profitable, they are going to produce more bushels.”
At the same time, Priebe explains that their business model is built on establishing a customer base and driving additional revenue through increased volumes. They aim to serve current customers to the highest level possible.
“We’re still meeting new growers, and growers are still finding out about us,” comments Priebe. “They have questions about marketing corn, and we hold trainings for folks, but there are still a lot of people to reach.”
In continuing to reach farmers from across the state, Priebe comments that they are working to implement new technologies that improve communication.
Priebe notes, “There is a lot of work that goes into making all of this happen, but we start with the end result in mind - make it simple for the grower to raise grain and get it marketed.”
“Without the growers, we wouldn’t be here,” adds Priebe, expressing his thanks for the support of the ag community. “When we say that the grower is at the front of our mind, they are. Without them, we wouldn’t get to be in the industry we love.”
FieldPro Crop Consulting
An additional aspect of Wyoming Ag Marketing is FieldPro Crop Consulting. Taylor Engum manages the enterprise.
Engum started in the fall of 2011, shortly after he became a certified crop advisor.
“FieldPro is a weekly crop scouting service that I do from mid-May to the end of August,” explains Engum of the program. “I scout for insects in alfalfa, corn, beans, barley and wheat and make recommendations on spraying and fertilizer.”
He also provides recommendations for watering crops.
Priebe notes that the Shoshoni FFA Ag Marketing team developed the business plan and details for FieldPro, and Engum implemented the team’s nationally recognized plan.
“Taylor took the base of what had been started and delivered it to the field,” Priebe says. “Last year, we had more growers interested in the program than time allowed. Farmers were excited to see it.”
“I’m here to help growers be successful,” adds Engum. “Whether it is in grain or in scouting, we strive to help growers be successful.”
Engum also works with all aspects of running the grain elevator.