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Faces of Farming - Grain Origination

QuentQuentin Blackford, Senior grain originator, MFA Northwest GroupBecoming a grain originator wasn’t originally in the plans for Quentin Blackford when he began his MFA career in 2014 as assistant manager of MFA Agri Services in Conception Junction, Mo. But as he worked with the location’s elevator and the one at neighboring Guilford, Blackford became more and more interested in the grain-marketing side of the business.

“I took some classes to learn how grain trading worked, and I was fascinated with the mechanics,” he said. “After receiving additional resources and education from MFA’s Grain Division, I was fortunate to be selected as this area’s grain originator. And I’m forever grateful for it. Ten years ago, I would have never guessed I’d be in this position, but I love the job.”

Blackford is based at the Four Rivers Agronomy Center in Ravenwood, Mo., but he serves producers throughout northwest Missouri and southern Iowa. He spoke to Today’s Farmer on a rainy day in early May, as several farmers took advantage of the break in planting to market some of their stored grain.

What is the role of a grain originator?
My job is to buy, sell and trade grain and generate profits for the producer and for their MFA location. In doing that, I spend a lot of my time working to identify various markets, trying to find a premium price and helping producers determine the best way to market their grain, whether it’s through their local elevator, farm-to-terminal contracts, basis contracts or any of the other options out there. Honestly, my title may be grain originator, but a big part of my job is running logistics, moving trucks around to where we need to go to capture the most efficiencies and the most profits for our customers and MFA.

What gives MFA an advantage when marketing grain?
We know the ins and outs of the grain business, and we have a tremendous amount of flexibility with the different types of contracts we can offer. We’re trading multiple markets all the time, and with MFA’s wide-reaching network and expertise in our Grain Division, we have a whole team of support and resources behind us. That allows us to make the right decisions to best benefit the producer. Then there’s the trucking aspect of it. I can run a lot of freight and utilize point A to point B pretty well because MFA is set up to do that. Plus, because MFA is a cooperative, another big benefit is that we can potentially offer the DPAD (Domestic Production Activities Deduction) to our grain customers. That’s not guaranteed, but it can be a valuable tax incentive for producers to sell their grain through our profile.

You maintain a close relationship with your grain customers. Why is that so important?
I’m truly a people person, and helping people is what drives me to do what I do. I believe in loyalty and trustworthiness. With the markets, it’s all about trust. Yes, the futures play a part, but the producer has to trust you to help market their grain. That’s their profit. That’s how they put food on the table. And knowing that they have enough confidence in me to find the right markets and generate them profit, it’s an amazing feeling. My job is to promote growth in their operation and in MFA. I want our customers to be successful, and without them, we’re not successful. I take pride in contributing to that success.

How does grain marketing fit into MFA’s mission to be a whole-farm solution provider?
It takes the crop full circle. We supplied your seed. We provided your chemicals. We put down your fertilizer. We scouted your fields. Now you’ve harvested the crop that we helped you grow. What are you going to do with it? The last thing you have to do is sell that grain to generate profit. That’s where MFA can step in again. We’re here to take care of the producer’s needs, and that is the ultimate goal—whether it’s supplying products and services you need to grow the crop or selling the grain you produce from it. MFA Grain wants to be part of that whole-farm solution, and I encourage producers to give us a shot. 

Read more of the June/July 2024 Today's Farmer Magazine HERE.

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