Women’s Empowerment Celebrated at United Grain Corporation | State and Regional

VANCOUVER, Wash. – United Grain Corporation (UGC), the largest grain facility and terminal in Vancouver, Washington, celebrated Women’s Empowerment Month in March by recognizing the critical role women play in agribusiness.

“From farming to finance, women are central to UGC, bringing high-quality grain from American farmers to markets around the world,” said Augusto Bassanini, UGC CEO and President.

Bassanini noted that giving women opportunities to fulfill some of UGC’s most important duties has made them more successful in feeding people around the world.

Meg Johnston, coverage analyst at corporate offices in Vancouver, is one of those women UGC is recognizing.

Johnston rose through the ranks, working on elevators in southwestern North Dakota and Washington, working with growers and grain markets around the world every step of the way.

Johnston grew up in central Oregon on a hobby farm, where her parents helped her and her brother acquire horses and other animals to exhibit at 4-H Achievement Days and county fairs.

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“I got involved with 4-H and FFA early on, as my parents were farm kids from Montana and Idaho, so we grew up with horses, cows, sheep and chickens to show off 4-H and did other projects.” she said.

In addition, Johnston’s grandparents were dairy and sheep farmers in Idaho, and she would visit their operation as a child.

“I loved every minute of it. If you take someone from the city and take them to the farm, anyone is fascinated by the milking machines and the calves. It was always fun,” he said.

After gaining experience in FFA, Johnston became “more serious” about farming.

Johnston said he gained confidence in FFA leadership, public speaking and parliamentary procedure and entered various FFA contests. He learned that there were careers in agriculture that didn’t necessarily involve operating a farm or ranch.

“At FFA, I was lucky to have a great advisor who made sure we had good internship opportunities, like with veterinarians and at food stores,” she said. “I’ve always been a business savvy, so I was drawn to the business side of farming and working in grain trading or sales and marketing.”

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FFA cemented his career goals in agriculture.

“It shaped my determination to go to Oregon State University to get a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business administration and that’s definitely because of my experience with FFA,” said Johnston.

At Oregon State University, CHS, a large grain and oilseed buyer and trader, held a recruiting event for graduating students.

“It was a program they ran for college graduates for two years, and I was lucky enough to get a position with them,” he said.

CHS brought the graduates they had hired, including Johnston, to its headquarters in Minneapolis, where they had the opportunity to work for six months in four different departments.

“It gave us a really good look at what CHS does for agriculture,” said Johnston.

After two years in the CHS program, Johnston decided that what he really enjoyed doing was grain trading.

Applied for a position in grain marketing at CHS Southwest Grain in Gladstone, ND

“I moved to Dickinson, North Dakota, and worked as a grain marketing assistant,” he said.

Johnston worked with Jim Bobb, retired grain division manager, and Brian Fadness, current grain division manager, on the elevator, learning all aspects of grain marketing from them.

“They were very helpful — wonderful people with a wealth of knowledge,” he said, adding that he still calls and talks to them. “Once Jim and Brian had me put the knowledge into a real practical applied situation, that’s where I really started to understand coverage and how it works.”

Johnston kept busy marketing grain at CHS Southwest Grain while she was there for three years.

“I was buying and selling grain from farmers, and I had a very complete experience at Southwest Grain,” he said.

While she was a grain vendor in the office, which was separate from the elevator with its towering grain bins, Johnston would occasionally check in on what was going on as farmers transported their grain.

“Every once in a while, I would go out to the house and talk to the guys because I had never worked in a grain elevator before,” he said. “When I started, I would go out for a couple of days and they would show me how they take samples out of trucks with the big arm.”

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At home, they would run grain samples through computers to get grain data.

“I never went out and physically dumped into the trucks, but they explained to me how they sorted the grain into the bins,” he said. “If they needed help, I would help tag (put metal stamps on) railroad cars, which is always a lot of fun in the North Dakota weather.”

Johnston explained that with tagging, he would place the seals on the cars as a security measure to ensure they are not opened or tampered with, from the time they are loaded until the time the car arrives at its destination. .

Johnston was also able to enjoy activities such as designing new websites for CHS Southwest Grain and producing promotional materials.

“It was so much fun because Jim and Brian fully believed in me and gave me every opportunity in grain marketing, allowing me to make mistakes and learn from them and then grow from them, which is what you need when you’re starting out.” she said.

After CHS Southwest Grain, Johnston took a dairy marketing position in Seattle. He liked the challenge of all the different aspects of agricultural marketing.

“It was eye-opening: learning how to market dairy products internationally,” he said.

While there, Johnston met her future husband, Jonathan, and they have a baby, Gwyeneth.

After a while, Johnston realized that he “still liked the world of cereals.” He met Brian Liedl, UGC Senior Trader, as well as others when he worked at CHS and CHS Southwest Grain.

UGC offered him the opportunity to work at their cover desk at the corporate offices. She had the experience to take on the challenge.

“I worked in hedging when I was at CHS and I sold commodity futures when I was at CHS Southwest Grain. I sold futures on my last dairy position,” Johnston said. “It’s definitely exciting and fast-paced, and it takes a lot of research to keep up with what’s going on in the world.”

Johnston said he enjoys his job as a cover desk analyst for UGC and working with Rob Froom, the lead manager for the central coverage desk.

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“Rob is a great source of knowledge and is great at sharing resources and pointing us in the right direction. It’s really easy to learn and find more information with a great team,” he said. “If someone hears something or finds something, even if it’s not directly related to what he’s doing, he’s great to share.”

With grain coverage, Johnston knows how grain movements can be affected by geopolitical tensions around the world.

“The world today is so interconnected, and with something as big as Ukraine, the Russian situation definitely affects the grain markets. That is unfortunate,” she said.

The US dollar is still high compared to other countries’ currencies, so it is still unknown if more wheat will be bought from the US this year. But if something big happens in the world, then we could see companies forced to come to the US and pay higher prices, causing our grain prices here in the US to go up, he said.

Johnston explained that during the harvest, grain prices drop because more supply is available.

“As we go through the year and supply decreases, the price tends to go up a little bit. We have definitely seen prices go up at times, not only on spring wheat, but also on winter wheats and white wheats,” he said.

In addition to wheat, UGC handles corn, primarily from Oregon, sorghum, and a small number of other Montana staples, such as barley or peas.

“United Grain is predominantly a wheat company,” he said.

Johnston said she was honored to be recognized during UGC’s Women’s Empowerment Month and as such, she likes to see more young women get involved in grain hedging and marketing.

At 30, Johnston is young, herself, and has a long career ahead of her in an elite job in the grain world.

“Again, it’s not something I would have thought about before joining FFA and going to college. I didn’t even know commodity futures trading existed,” Johnston said, with a smile.