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BB&P Feed & Grain: Providing Essential Supplies to Iowa’s Farms
BB&P Feed & Grain (BB&P) has been a leading force in the development and growth of Iowa agribusiness since 1972. From one facility in Winterset, Iowa, Bob and Peggy Casper and partners Dean Molln and Larry Molln run the retail agricultural supply business, providing integral components to allow farms across the state to thrive and making sure to support local communities in any way they can.
“We’re a full-service suppler, so not only do we buy grain and deal in feed, but we also sell fuel, chemicals and fertilizer and will apply them for the customer,” explains Bob, who acts as BB&P’s secretary and treasurer. “I come from a farming background and understand the needs of the customer, and providing that as best we can is still our major interest.”
Maintaining a staff of 22, BB&P is able to handle almost all operations required to process grains, transport product and apply it, so the company rarely subcontracts. “Occasionally we’ll sub out some of the mechanical work, but we do most of our repair work, as well as electrical work and carpentry, and we have a couple of guys on staff that used to work in construction that will take care of any overhauls we need,” explains Bob.
Working in agriculture presents challenges in many ways. Markets have become increasingly global, and because of the expanding marketplace BB&P has seen the cost of chemicals drop. “Everything is a world market right now,” affirms Bob. “The availability of generic chemicals in the past few years has been a huge change for us in the last five years because fertilizers are completely dependent upon that and it ultimately affects the prices of grain.”
This drop in cost has created greater competition, and to not lose customers to someone selling product for less profit margins have stayed at three- to five-percent. This means less cash on hand, so it can potentially pose problems as many farming deals are made with an understanding that payment follows the upcoming harvest.
“The farmer can drive out in a pickup truck with $100,000 worth of chemicals with just a handshake,” reflects Bob. “Most of the products we sell, we have to pay for in advance, but when we turn around and sell it again the customer isn’t required to pay immediately. So we make sure to offer discounts to clients who pay within 30 days or we will work with some to finance the purchases.”
Even with these conditions, BB&P has managed to maintain several consecutive years of significant growth. “The Midwest is booming,” asserts Bob. “It seems like the coasts are really suffering. Here, we’re seeing a bushel of beans sell of $14 that used to sell for half as much. The prices for corn have more than doubled, so it’s the good kind of challenge for once. The farmers in rural areas are actually looking around for places to spend their money these days.”
BB&P is using this capital to take on larger infrastructural improvements that manage to strengthen both the company and its surroundings. “We’re busy these days putting in a wind generator to reduce the costs of our utilities, which can run in the thousands of dollar monthly,” says Bob. “Green technology is good for the environment, so we decided to install a 100 kW wind turbine. We’re working with the city so we can sell our excess power back to the grid, or pull energy from it for the times when it doesn’t provide us with enough, which is important because our energy needs are very seasonal and we need a lot of it to dry the corn.”
Electricity is not the only energy BB&P puts into the local community. The firm proudly sponsors events such as the Hawkeye Pedal Pull, as well as the annual Madison County Fair. The company is also a member of the local Chamber of Commerce, which provides it opportunities to get involved with charities and team-building work.
With over three decades in the business, the Caspers recognize that keeping people happy is a huge part of the battle and works hard to offer incentives larger stores can’t. “All of our competition comes from co-ops, but we’re still independent,” says Bob. “We’re owned by two families and it’s important for us as a company to support the local community while maintaining our market share. I would hate to lose a customer, so we work hard to give better customer service and we will also stay open later during the busy season. In the next few years, I don’t think we’ll try to grow much bigger than we are.”
With the company’s 40th anniversary coming up in 2012, BB&P Feed & Grain is proud to have made a name for itself as one of the last remaining independently owned agricultural supply companies in the area, and it will continue to help feed local needs.