Grain prices cause slower-than-usual business for Northern Plains Grain Inspection Service

Last year's high grain prices rushed through grain markets and elevator industries, leaving little more than a few straggling kernels in the bins for spring business.

Last year's high grain prices rushed through grain markets and elevator industries, leaving little more than a few straggling kernels in the bins for spring business.

Northern Plains Grain Inspection Service Inc. noticed the boom in business several months ago when the high commodity prices hit. Now the company can only wait for more grain and for business to pick up again.

"Business would still be somewhat slow during this time of year because of the farming season," says Duane Schmaltz at the NPGIS office in Devils Lake, N.D. "Summer and spring are our slow periods, but I believe that this summer we will see the slowest summer on record. Grain sold last fall with the high increased grain prices, and now the elevators are empty."

What it does

The company has been around for more than 50 years. The current NGIS operation opened in October 2003 and is owned by Ryan Kuhl and Paul Bethke. The company has two offices -- one in Devils Lake and one in Grand Forks, N.D.


NPGIS provides official grain sampling and grain inspections to elevators and the occasional farmer. The company does grain grading for elevators using unit trains. These grades help farmers and elevators with buying and selling of grain commodities.

"We mostly serve elevators," Schmaltz says. "Only about 5 percent of our business is from farmers."

NPGIS deals with all grain types, but focuses mostly wheat, soybeans, corn and other small grains and row crops.

Local elevators contact NPGIS daily for grain inspections and sampling. Official NPGIS personal take samples from the elevators rail cars, at times using a Diverter Type, or DT, automatic sampler. This sampler takes samples directly from the rail cars as they are being loaded.

NPGIS officials bring the samples back to the office for inspections dealing with protein, mycotoxin, moisture, defects, weight and other factors that determine the grains numerical grade. Samples are cut down several times into work size portions throughout the process.

Because spring and summer are slower times -- this year especially -- NPGIS workers have time for other things like studying for commodity licenses on government grades and fishing. Each commodity needs to have its own licenses and each worker needs to have licenses to grade the different commodity varieties. Time is allotted for further training to improve the business during this season as well.

"Not everyone has their licenses to grade the different types of grains," Schmaltz says. "And this slow period allows for us to get those licenses."

For farmers, too


While farmers mostly use NPGIS for insurance purposes and bring their products in for the company to sample and grade, the company officials would like to serve more farmers.

"We don't get many farmers through our business," says Ryan Kuhl, co-owner of NPGIS from the Grand Forks office. "We'd like to help out the farmers more and give them more knowledge about their grain quality."

Schmaltz says that high grain prices, bad crop yields from other countries and a large demand and export of domestic crops have all contributed to this year's grain "shortage."

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