Specialty Crops: There’s An App For That

As FarmLead continues its rapid expansion across the United States, our coverage of wheat quality and production has been a regular feature. We encourage farmers to get their grain inspected through GrainTests.com and obtain needed specs to ensure the top dollar for their specifications. Doing so will allow them to market their grain on the FarmLead Marketplace better and entice buyers from all across the country at a time that high-quality protein is trading at premiums.

But FarmLead isn’t just for wheat, corn, and soybean producers. With more than 100 commodity categories available on our platform, farmers can post any crop on the FarmLead Marketplace and find the best price possible among our hundreds of financially verified buyers.

It’s important to stress how FarmLead is creating unique opportunities and content for specialty crop producers. This includes those growing and selling pulses like lentils, peas, or chickpeas, or oilseeds like canaryseed, flax, or mustard.

This week, we dig into three critical challenges faced by specialty crop producers who are looking to market their grain. For insight, we sat down with Christian Chivilo of WA Grain to better understand the current process around specialty crop grain marketing.

Then, we discuss why FarmLead is your grain marketing partner in selling your specialty crops.

The Importance of Crop Testing

Don’t just take our word for why it’s essential that you test your grain and get a detailed specification report on your crops.

Listen to the buyers who scour their regions looking for the crops they need to fulfill their quotas and programs. Many buyers will run tests on the grain, oilseed, or pulse crop, but providing them with specifications ahead of time can expedite the sales process and ensure you receive a deal before your local competitors.

“Depending on the product, we will run different tests,” said Chivilo. “If it is a cereal, we will do a bushel weight, moisture, sprouted, fusarium test as well as protein, falling number and possibly gluten.  We will also take into consideration the amount of ergot and any other foreign material and the costs to clean.  If the product is lentils or peas, we will need to consider the moisture (if it’s tough, it will mold, and it’s too dry, there will be the high number of splits). There can be no earth tag, and any foreign material must be able to be cleaned out.”

As Chivilo notes, farmers have increasingly grown aware of the importance of grain testing before they begin their marketing efforts. However, too many fail to provide the extra value to buyers.

“Farmers are becoming more aware of all the different attributes that need to be tested, but there are often they will question some of the information we are looking for,” Chivilo said. “Having a farmer pre-test his samples put him well ahead of the game and often results in that farmer getting the top of the market pricing.”

What if The Specifications are Wrong

If the specs are wrong, buyers will traditionally work with farmers on pricing. However, buyers will grow frustrated by the amount of time lost, opportunity costs, and logistical challenges.

The time delays tie up bin space in buyers’ plants since it cannot move further down the supply chain.

“This results in storage costs, and will also put us in a spot of finding another contract for the product. Sometimes we will try to make the product work towards shipments, pushing the spec limits as much as possible, which puts us at risk to claims and discounts from our buyers overseas,” Chivilo said.

He also notes that farmer specifications – sometimes completed on the farm with unreliable testing methods – can lead to a situation where they are forced to find a replacement product for sales.

“If the market has moved in a higher direction on the purchase side, we can be hurt financially by replacement costs. We do have procedures in place to cover this risk, but it is still a risk that we take on as a company.”

Also, these problems can lead to buyers no longer working with this producer.

“Farmers trying to sneak in an off-grade product do not get away with it for long and can often tarnish their reputation,” he said.

The Quest for High-Quality Grain

Having the right, verified specifications will attract the best buyers and help them obtain the best price possible.

“There is no secret that the farmers who take the time to ensure their quality meets the specs they are guaranteeing, get priority treatment and will often have an easier time finding the highest pricing in the market,” Chivilo said.

Chivilo says that his firm will target a farmer before other producers if they have “

done their due diligence with sampling, testing, [and] checking their bins.”

Also, they will travel outside of their area to track down the best crops to meet their needs.

“If we need some high-quality product in an [Alberta] location, and we can get it guaranteed from a farmer in [Saskatchewan], we will have no problem doing so knowing that we are guaranteed the specs.”

Get Your Grain Tested

Chivilo stresses the importance of getting your grain tested to attract buyers from outside your local network. More important, you want to ensure that you are getting your samples from the best grain testing facilities possible rather than just relying on a piece of machinery on your farm. It’s important to trust the numbers that you see if you own testing machines, but you must verify.

“It goes a long way in this industry making sure you are ensuring the samples you have sent a grain company are representative of what you have in the bin and checking your bins throughout the year to make sure no issues arise,” he said.

Making sure that no problems arise for farmers is part of FarmLead’s mission to get the best price possible for your grain.

In August, FarmLead launched GrainTests.com, an online tool that provides farmers and buyers access to grain testing centers across North America. Farmers now have access to the same best-in-class grain testing services as the largest commercial operators in North America.”

The platform provides around-the-clock access, seven days per week and ensures that users obtain the lowest price for grain testing across different regions.

Customers can order tests from world-class labs like SGS, Intertek, Biovision, and 20/20 Seed Labs in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec.

As a reminder, and as our CEO & FarmLead founder, Brennan Turner, mentioned when we first launched GrainTests.com, FarmLead makes no money off this tool. It’s purely designed to emphasize the importance and simplicity for individual farmers to increase the marketability of their cereals, oilseeds, or pulses.

In the coming weeks, we’ll also be expanding our network of testing centers in the United States.

Until then though, you can still order all of your grain tests completed through GrainTests.com.

Once those results are received, you can post the grain risk-free on the FarmLead Marketplace. If you already have some specs known, you should definitely still post it to put it in front of more buyers. Simply put, with more buyers, your chances of finding better prices intuitively improves.


About the Author
Garrett Baldwin

Garrett Baldwin is a content strategist and editor at FarmLead. He covers the global grain markets and public policy issues related to the agricultural industry. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He also holds a Master’s Degree in Economic Policy from The Johns Hopkins University, an MS in Agricultural Economics from Purdue University, and an MBA in Finance from Indiana University.

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