Vernon and Barbara Egbert's marketing tools are 130,000 bushels of grain storage and a big telephone bill. The southeastern Kansas couple grows soybeans, corn, grain sorghum and wheat near McCune.
“We don't forward-sell much grain, but I don't consider what we do as purely speculating on the market,” explains Vernon Egbert. “I watch bids at several different markets that are within our reach. I try to study who's buying what and keep aware of what's going on.
“We spread marketing over the entire year and gain 15-25¢/bu over local elevator bids,” he adds. “Livestock and poultry feeders are our biggest market, and they typically don't buy a lot of grain ahead. When they're running short, I want to be in a position to supply them on short notice.”
Last year, for example, Egbert made a call to a nearby feed mill that services Butterball turkey growers.
“The mill gets most of its corn by rail, but railcars were delayed getting there,” says Egbert. “It needed corn right away. We made an extra 15¢/bu on a couple of truckloads, but we had to be able to get it to the mill that day.”
The Egberts believe their marketing savvy more than pays for their investment in grain handling and storage. In fact, they began putting together their bins, dryer and elevator-leg complex about 30 years ago, as a way to make harvesting more efficient.
“This setup lets us keep combines running as well as gives us a lot of marketing flexibility,” says Egbert. “You cannot compare the cost of on-farm storage with the cost of commercial storage in an elevator. There are no lines of trucks here. We're always open, day and night.”
That's a handy feature when it comes to selling, too. For instance, Neill Cattle Company, a big cattle feedlot in northeastern Oklahoma, often orders corn ahead from the Egberts.
“Neill hauls its own grain,” Egbert says. “When it needs to pick up a load of corn, I run the corn into an overhead bin. The trucker can load out when he gets here, whether I'm around or not. We sell grain to other feeders who let us keep it in our storage for awhile. But the transaction is made up front, and we get paid for storing the grain.”
Egbert and his son, Alan, own grain trucks and haul some of their own. But Egbert prefers to hire dependable truckers.
“I like to know who's hauling my grain and when I'll get paid,” he says. “A young man who lives near here hauls a lot of our grain. But I don't sell to independent truckers I'm not acquainted with. I'm interested in the return of my money, as well as the return on my money.”
Last April, a tornado ripped through the Egbert homestead, wiping out bins, buildings and most of the family home. Vernon and Barbara had to rebuild virtually every structure on the place. “And I lost my Rolodex in the storm,” laments Vernon. “I've had to reconstruct my telephone list.”