Working Hard to Make it Work

DairyIndustry-Blog

Burfeind Dairy employees (l-r): Alfredo Figueroa, Grace Figueroa, Bo Dankers, David Burfeind, Sheila Burfeind, Peter Burfeind holding Brooks Burfeind and Patti Robertson of Merchants Bank.

Those who have paid attention to the dairy industry know it’s been a roller coaster for farmers, with the ride hitting some lows over the past several years, and continuing to be challenging for many farmers.

In 2014, milk prices were at record highs, and things were relatively good for dairy farmers. In September of 2014, prices peaked at $25.70 per hundredweight (100 pounds) for milk, on the average nationally. Over the past three years, prices have been lower and they have bottomed out at $15.30 per hundredweight in February of this year.

Another indicator of challenging times was at the monthly dairy sale in early May in Pipestone, Minnesota, where the going price of “springers” – cows about to give birth – averaged $1,332, the lowest price since November of 2011. The overall size of the dairy herd was also down by 4,000 cows in Minnesota, according to the Milk Producers Council newsletter.

This has made every move count for dairy farmers.

“Unless you are in a niche market, it can be challenging,” said Goodhue dairy farmer Peter Burfeind.

Making a Go of It In Organics

One person who is in a niche market is Merchants Bank Commercial Banker, Kim O’Reilly, who with her husband, Casey, operates an organic dairy farm where they milk about 100 cows.

She said that back in 2014 and 2015 the cooperative they were working with needed more milk, so they were asked to produce more milk.

“But, it takes time to increase production as it doesn’t occur overnight,” Kim said. “So we have worked to get our production up, and now they have placed a quota limiting the milk the cooperative will take at the current price and are paying less than cost for the amount over quota.”

The Future is Brighter

Overall milk production is starting to slow down lessening the supply in the marketplace, and that means that the prices have started to tick up, Peter said. That sentiment was echoed by dairy expert Dr. Bob Cropp, of the University of Wisconsin-Extension, as noted in the May 25, 2018, Wisconsin Ag Connection newsletter. Cropp said that milk production needs to slow down if prices are going to gain traction again.

Peter, who milks 300 cows at the family operation which started in 1965, said the slowing of production should mean better prices six months from now, and he is hopeful that the smaller producers can stay around to enjoy that benefit, “but we really don’t know for sure where the industry is going.”

Cropp was in agreement in his May 25 column, saying: “Milk prices are expected to strengthen and possibly top out in October or November.”

It’s Nothing New

For many farmers, farming is part of their family history and it gets in their blood. Over the years, they have been through the ups and downs of the economic cycles. They remain resilient and optimistic.

“Farmers work hard day in and day out, but I truly believe it is a great life and a true blessing to be a farmer,” Kim said.

A Part of Merchants Bank Too

O’Reilly pointed out that experience with farming is something that she thinks sets Merchants apart from the other financial institutions working in the Ag sector.

In addition to O’Reilly, who is based in Cannon Falls and Red Wing, Senior Lender Brian Hokanson is also a farmer and also based in Cannon Falls and Red Wing. Lenders like Patti Robertson, who is based in Red Wing and works with the Burfeinds, has decades of experience in Ag, as does Jim Peterson in Cannon Falls.

Jim Allen, Tim Gossman and Blake Koebke help farmers in St. Charles. Matt Schuldt in Caledonia and Spring Grove and Ken Graner in Rushford and Lanesboro have years of experience working with farmers. Dustin Hundt and Senior Lender Shawn Sackman work with farmers out of the Onalaska location. Our Winona location includes Jim Vrchota and Senior Lender Randy Domeyer. Recent additions, like Jerad Brown in Rushford and Kaleb Storm in Winona, who grew up on the family farm and also has experience with helping vineyards, make up our Ag team.

Here’s more on what Merchants Bank’s ag financing and the lenders who may be able to help.

Jerad Brown Has Joined Merchants Bank in Rushford and Lanesboro as a Commercial and Ag Banker

BrownJerad

Jerad Brown, Commercial & Ag Banker

Area native Jerad Brown has joined Merchants Bank in Rushford and Lanesboro as a Commercial and Ag Banker, according to Ken Graner, President for Merchants Bank in Rushford and Lanesboro.

“Jerad has the right mix of experience, interest and personality to be successful as a banker and, more importantly, to help our customers grow,” Graner said. “His work in credit analysis and his interest and experience in business and ag will be a benefit to the people he serves.”

For the past two years, Brown has worked with Rushford State Bank as a credit analyst, looking at agriculture and commercial loans, including an emphasis on the Farm Service Agency (FSA) guaranty program. A graduate of Rushford-Peterson High School and South Dakota State University, he served as a member of the South Dakota State University Livestock Judging Team. At SDSU, Brown majored in Agriculture Science and had minors in Animal Science and Agriculture Business.

“The people who live here are my neighbors. I know what’s important to them, and I know how important it is for our local economy for our farms and businesses to succeed,” Brown said. “I look forward to putting my knowledge and energy to work for Merchants Bank and our customers.”

John Diersen Joins Board of Directors

DiersenJohnWell-known local Dairy Farmer John Diersen has been appointed to the Merchants Bank in Caledonia and Spring Grove Advisory Board of Directors, according to Matt Schuldt, President for Merchants Bank in Caledonia and Spring Grove.

“John is a valuable addition to the Board. He brings us a lot of knowledge about farming and the ag community, especially the dairy industry,” Schuldt said. “Plus, he’s about improving the community. He and his family give a lot back and are a big part of our area.”

Diersen is looking forward to giving his time and knowledge to the Board.

“I want to be able to contribute to the Board, not just be someone sitting in a chair,” Diersen said. “I’ll be able to provide input as far as farming, helping to pinpoint what to look for when it comes to the business of agriculture.”

Diersen, 62, farms with his wife, Karyl, and two sons, Joshua and Jayson, at Minnigan Hills Farm outside of Caledonia. The farm has been in the family since John’s grandfather. Currently, they farm 500 acres and milk between 135 and 150 Holsteins. Diersen is involved in the embryo business with three other local dairymen in Four Cal Genetics. The Diersens have also been involved in the American Dairy Association for many years and take a lead role in the Houston County Fair. John is a member of St. John’s Lutheran Church and has served on the board of directors at the church.