According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Virginia farmers produced more than half a billion bushels of grain and soybeans between 2006 and 2012. And the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Grain Marketing Division moves millions of those bushels across the state annually.
An important part of the grain supply chain is farmers’ sale of those commodities. Profits are made through timely decisions on how and where to market crops, and the VFBF grain division helps with those sales. The program, which is approaching its 45th year, connects Virginia grain producers with buyers and markets.
“I work with about 17 buyers and dump trucks at 25 destinations to try and figure out what the best net price is,” explained Robert Harper, VFBF grain manager. “My job is to help farmers get the best prices for their grains.”
VFBF is one of only a few state Farm Bureaus that offer such a service to their members. Its grain division is a licensed grain dealer that Farm Bureau put in place in 1972 to help producer members buy and sell bulk loads of grains.
“Farmers in the late 1960s wanted access to more markets. They solicited $65,000 from 311 members in 22 counties to fund the first grain manager position at Farm Bureau,” explained Harper, who is the fifth grain manager. He works closely with a senior agriculture market analyst and accounting staff. Farm Bureau also offers its members access to a broker to hedge and to buy and sell options on their production.
When the division began, very few farmers had semi-trucks to move grain to destination markets. Farm Bureau gave them access to trucks and developed better basis prices—the difference between the futures market and the local cash price—by pooling bushels for members.
Harper, a former Virginia Cooperative Extension agent, has been selling grain for producers since 2014. He acts as a hub to connect producers with buyers and carriers.
“Some producers choose to have grain or beans picked up at the farm, and some choose to deliver themselves. Producers appreciate this flexibility,” he said.