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Published January 19, 2010, 12:00 AM

Aging elevator managers to leave a void

North Dakota grain elevators soon will need a new generation of managers.

North Dakota grain elevators soon will need a new generation of managers.

The state Grain Dealers Association – holding its annual convention in Fargo – is looking for ways to recruit them.

About 1,000 people are attending the convention, which began Sunday and ends today.

Roughly half of the state’s grain elevator managers are 50-59 years old, according to information presented at the convention.

The state has 400 licensed grain elevators.

“It’s something we need to deal with,” Steve Strege, the association’s executive vice president, said of finding replacements for 50-something managers.

Speakers at a convention workshop on Monday said the task won’t be easy.

Grain elevators are an increasingly complex business.

That’s partly because elevators buy and sell grain, and grain prices are more volatile than ever.

Growing government regulations are another factor.

“When I started (in the grain elevator business), I barely knew OSHA (the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration) existed,” said Keith Brandt, manager of Plains Grain & Agronomy in Enderlin.

But there’s reason to think good managers can be found, said Larry Fuller, director of placement for Cenex Harvest States.

He helps CHS grain elevators identify potential managers.

Agriculture has fared well the past few years, which is attracting more interest in grain elevator management from people without a strong agricultural background, he said.

Potential elevator managers with little or no farm background can receive specialized training, Fuller said.

College students don’t need to have grown up on a farm to consider pursuing a career in the elevator business, said Frayne Olson, crop economist/marketing specialist at the North Dakota State University Extension Service.

Internships and job shadowing – in which a student spends time with an elevator manager – can encourage students to seek a career in grain elevator management, he said.

Many North Dakota elevators are in small towns, which appeals to people who value a small community’s quality of life, said David Fiebiger, manager of Finley Farmers Elevator.

Brandt, the Enderlin elevator manager, said he’s confident the next generation of managers will be found.

“They’re out there,” he said.

Also at the convention Monday:

Geoff Simon, director of government affairs for Bismarck-based MDU Resources Group, criticized news media reporting on climate change.

“All you hear about are the negative effects,” he said.

Simon said there are good reasons to doubt human activity plays a big role in climate change.

But those reasons aren’t receiving widespread attention, he said.

“A lot of this stuff, the media ought to be telling us. But we’re not hearing it,” he said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Jonathan Knutson at (701) 241-5530

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