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Premier Companies: Know-How to Keep Up with 21st Century Markets
Premier Companies has been assisting southeastern Indiana farmers to optimize crop yields in an environmentally responsible manner, while helping grain producers maximize profit for more than 80 years. The Premier Companies include two divisions. Premier Energy offers ethanol blends, biodiesel and other fuels to address the energy needs of the area. Premier Ag offers a wide range of products and services – from seed to grain sales and fertilizer applications – making every acre count. A customer-focused organization providing honesty and dependability in each visit, Premier Ag works hard to add value to its communities.
“It’s really our knowledge of the industry and our strategies for going to market and our employees that set us apart from a lot of our competitors,” explains Harold Cooper, Premier Ag general manager. “Our focus is first and foremost the customers’ success. We’re in the business to help our customers optimize their operations at every step and for every square foot of land.”
Today, Premier Ag is the leading crops supplier in its region and employs roughly 100 people to deliver on its promise of being full-service. In addition to supplying farmers with competitively priced inputs, the company also focuses on offering a variety of services that help farmers better understand the land they work with, such as grid soil sampling, liquid and dry custom fertilizer application, seed treating with fungicide and insecticide, and consultation services from highly experienced crop specialists as to how both to grow and market grain.
Technology for the 21st Century
Premier Ag has worked hard to develop and incorporate technologies that inevitably make farmers more successful. Cooper explains, “On the crops side of our business we have developed a proprietary service called TRAX that uses GPS positioning to track and treat every square foot of a field.
“It’s a service we developed by aligning ourselves with AgVantage software out of Minneapolis and CDMS Software out of California so that we are able to tap into multiple databases,” continues Cooper. “As we compile data from a farm, our crop specialists actually show the farmer, in numbers and data, how to best treat the fields. It helps the producer understand more about all the controllable variables that affect yields. These factors include soil fertility, seed selection and management practices. Our software also tracks and recommendations the most responsible ways to protect the growing crop from disease, insect feeding and weed pressure. We can even use that data to compare it to what other farmers in similar situations are doing.”
While theoretically not an emerging technology, GPS-integrated precision applications for the agribusiness are pioneering, and Premier Ag is leading the way. “While the technology isn’t exactly new itself, it’s the expanse and utility of our data that sets us apart and why the applications are so promising,” asserts Cooper. “We are even working to use it to dispatch and schedule our equipment and we see this as a major area of growth for the company.”
In a market that prioritizes tracking and accountability to help ensure responsible stewardship of the land and to safeguard the crops being grown for public consumption, the deliverables derived using TRAX are especially promising on a national application. TRAX is an important tool to help farmers optimize yield and maximize profit, but in a responsible manner, and Premier Companies recognizes its increasing value.
“We just registered the TRAX name so we can begin to treat it like a separate brand identity,” explains Cooper. “These days, the end user wants to know not only where their food comes from, but what happened to it along every step of the way and our system captures exactly that. So if a national entity like Walmart or Cargill decided they need to acquire grain with certain defined attributes, TRAX can help locate the grain and insure it meets the buyers criteria.”
An Eye for Expansion
The Premier Companies understand processing and positioning. And all of the group’s expertise has been utilized as Premier Ag navigates the triumphs and challenges of the agribusiness industry’s recent success.
“It has been really good for the last four to five years as a matter of fact, and you can see this translated on Wall Street as it relates to commodity trading and other publicly traded agribusinesses,” says Cooper. “It has really been an amazing time for us because over one-third of all corn produced in the nation is diverted specifically to energy and ethanol production and we have been seeing meat diets become more popular especially in the Pacific Rim and in the BRIC countries, which requires a lot of grain to feed the animals. The real challenges we have these days are in the wildly erratic changes in commodity prices driven by supply and demand in part, but also by hedge fund managers and investors.
“Because a lot of our fertilizers and chemicals come from overseas, the supply channel we deal with has become very long,” continues Cooper. “A few years ago we could just call and ask for something and it would be readily available, but now it can take three or four months.”
Despite increasingly long supply chains, Premier Ag is happy to have experienced the backlog to maintain its experienced work force, which for many in the industry has been particularly challenging. “Overall, for our business we have a lot of really experienced and qualified people working here, which for agribusiness is a huge feat.”
These employees will benefit the core business of Premier Companies, which includes the energy division. Premier Energy sells fuel through transport, tankwagon and retail gas stations. Premier Energy is part-owner in a fuel refinery that produces a light, sweet crude from the Illinois basin. This fuel is 100-percent American refined and is marketed under the CountryMark brand. “It never co-mingles with fuel from other sources and so we have greater control over the end product and in fact, our users will pay a premium for it because it has better fuel economy and is better for engine wear than other fuels,” says Cooper.
In Indiana, research has found that the CountryMark fuel brand is as well known to agriculture as other nationally known names like John Deere, Dekalb, BP or Shell. Premier Energy also markets CountryMark fuels to trucking companies, municipalities, construction and manufacturing. Premier Energy sells fuel into all markets, and is also are a leading supplier of renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel.
In the approaching years, Premier Companies will continue to focus on its established businesses, expanding market share for its fuels and seeking out promising agricultural opportunities. “In the next few years I don’t think we will be straying very far from our core business,” says Cooper. “Our priorities for the future are to decide what kind of participation we will have in the grain markets in the future and to expand our energy division both geographically and in terms of the size of our customers.
“We have been keeping an eye out to look at new partnerships to help us expand either through acquisition or partnerships for fuels, crops, and grain respectively,” continues Cooper. “Those are our core markets and we’re going to stay in them.”
Heading surefooted down the road to best serve its customers, Premier Companies will continue optimizing the crops, fuel and grain markets throughout southeastern Indiana for years to come.