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Managing the Margins

As someone who farmed through the 80s, Pat Feeney has navigated the valleys of ag prosperity. So the current dip in commodity prices comes as no surprise to him. But it does present some challenges, and that’s why he keeps a close eye on his costs and works hard to take advantage of favorable prices when they present themselves.

“We’re not shopping for the absolute lowest input cost,” Pat clarifies, “but we are shopping for the best bang for the buck. And the timing of our purchases is the key to that. With corn priced where it is right now, our biggest immediate challenge is finding ways to reduce input costs. For that reason, we do extensive prepaying when we can to take advantage of discounts, and United Prairie has always been very accommodating and helpful in that regard.” 

A fourth-generation farmer, Pat and his father, Luke, raise corn and soybeans east of Monticello. Brother Mike is also involved in the operation. The family has worked with United Prairie since the company was formed.

“What we’re looking for in a partner, first and foremost, is service,” Pat explains. “Knowledge is a close second. We rely on our salesman, Matt Warnes, for advice, recommendations, and pricing. We look at Matt as part of our operation.” 

Planning for growth

Though the immediate hurdle for Feeney Farms, according to Pat, is “figuring out how we can not lose money on corn,” he hasn’t stopped looking ahead.

“Like every operation in our area, we’re looking at expansion,” he states. “We have some challenging times ahead, but our goal is still to raise the most grain we can within reasonable cost parameters.”

One of the keys to making that happen, Pat acknowledges, is having everything in place in season so that production can proceed with minimal delay and maximum efficiency.

“In season, we completely expect and trust United Prairie to do their job at the right time and professionally,” Pat says, “and they always have. Traditionally, we have absolutely relied on Matt’s recommendations and have been aggressive with our fertility program. We’ve seen the benefits of that approach.”

Tighter margins in the coming months may necessitate some changes in the formula, but Pat remains generally upbeat about his profession. 

“We love farming and are fortunate to be able to do what we love,” he summarizes. “Challenge isn’t always a bad thing in that it encourages us to try new things. This may be one of those great years of discovery. One thing I do know is that going forward, I fully expect United Prairie to be a partner with us. We don’t look at them as supplier, but as a part of our team.”

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