AMARILLO — What would you do with an extra $10,000 or $20,000 or even $50,000 per year? Expand your business and pay off debts, go to Hawaii for the winter?
For producers enrolling in the new Master Marketers program, offered for the first time in the Panhandle this January — the numbers were presented in more practical terms.
“An extra $10,000 or $25,000 a year in returns can be achieved by operators who increase the net price by 2.5 percent over their current marketing practices,” according to the program’s co- organizer, Steve Amosson, Extension Service management economist at Texas A&M’s Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Amarillo.
This analogy corresponds to increasing the net price of commodities 5 and 8 cents per bushel, added Amosson.
Economists with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service developed the training program for the benefit of Texas producers, who must position rapidly to meet the challenges of a changing industry driven by accelerated global markets. The impact of the newly crafted farm bill is being incorporated into the training experience.
The pilot project provides an intensive 64-hour curriculum focused on helping agricultural entrepreneurs increase their skills in marketing agricultural commodities.
“The program has not only potential to dramatically impact the bottom line of master marketers and the people they train, but their communities as a whole,” said Mark Waller, an Extension economist in grain marketing and policy.
“Increased producer income translates into more money for goods and services, multiplying throughout the local economy, over and over again,” the economist added.
Top professionals were brought in from around the country to supplement the instruction presented by The Texas A&M System economists for the most intensive agricultural marketing program ever offered by Extension.
In the program’s first hours, trainees developed marketing plans, using basic and advanced marketing strategies followed by practicums in basis, fundamental analysis and technical analysis. Finally, they were taught the principles of international trading and value added product marketing.
Jackie Smith, an Extension economist based in Lubbock, joined with Amosson and Waller in leading the program for Amarillo-area producers. Smith is a specialist in computerized recordkeeping, budgets, and marketing. He’s also credited with developing the strong network of marketing clubs in the South Plains region.
“Master Marketers is open to producers, or anyone interested in marketing agricultural commodities,” Smith said. “It was patterned after the successful Extension Service Master Gardeners and Agri-Food Masters, among others, which operate in urban areas.”
Trainees in ‘masters’ concept programs also agree to give something back to an industry or community. Master marketers make the commitment to start and lead marketing clubs to train producers in their home communities.
In the Texas Panhandle, 57 master marketer trainees had graduated by late February. This year’s class, primarily stocker cattle, wheat and feed grain producers, represented some 27 counties in the upper tier of the state.
The program is already paying dividends. By early summer, Master Marketer graduates had started 15 marketing clubs with more to be organized in the fall.
“Interest in joining an existing club will increase again after seasonal harvests and planting is over,” Amosson said.
In Moore County alone, four clubs have been formed, most were meeting on a twice weekly schedule. The total combined membership stands at between 60 to 65 individuals in that county, according to Delana Quirk of Dumas who coordinates activities for all Moore County clubs.
“The Etter club was meeting weekly until harvest went into full swing. The interest in the marketing clubs in our area has been tremendous,” Quirk said.
State Rep. David Swinford of Dumas, when not in Austin, is a grain elevator operator and farmer where he sees the realities of good marketing first hand. At harvest, as some farmers bank $2 per bushel corn, others will come away with $3 per bushel — the difference will be astute marketing by the producer, according to Swinford.
When asked to evaluate the training, Swinford, like other participants was ready to respond.
“This was the most intense, broad-based marketing seminar that I have attended in my 30 years in the grain business and farming. You won’t go wrong by participating,” he said.
Another producer from Booker, Janet Tregellas agreed: “We acquired the tools to prosper in the transition environment that unfortunately will eliminate the uninformed.”
Program sponsors and underwriters include the Texas Corn Producers, Texas Wheat Producers Association, the Chicago Board of Trade, and the Extension Service.
Next year, the second round of the pilot program will move to Lubbock and will be targeted toward the needs of cotton producers. This program is one of many supported by the statewide county Extension network, which needs additional funding from the Legislature if it is going to continue to have the capacity to deliver educational programs to citizens across Texas.
“After a decade of funding constraints, the Extension Service needs additional monies to ensure county-level staffing is adequate,” said Dr. Zerle Carpenter, director of the Extension Service.