Agribusiness Profile – John Zietz

This month’s agribusiness professional is John Zietz, of InteGrow Malt/Cargill.  John is a member of my Leadership Idaho Agriculture class.  TheCitySlicker and I had the opportunity to take a tour of John’s barley malting plant earlier this month.  That was pretty impressive – those grain towers are HUGE!

At the tippy-top of one of the grain towers!

At the tippy-top of one of the grain towers!

I hope you all enjoy learning more about John and what he does! If you like beer, John plays an especially important role in making sure your brews are good, time after time!

1.) Your Name :   John Zietz

John Zietz, of InteGrow Malt

John Zietz, of InteGrow Malt

2.) Company Name and Location:   InteGrow Malt, LLC and Cargill, Inc., Idaho Falls, Idaho

3.) What is your Position?   Barley Supply Chain Manager

4.) How Long have you held this Position:  I’ve been at Cargill for  35+ years;  4 ½ years of that time at InteGrow Malt

5.) What led you to this job?  Cargill formed the Joint Venture with GModelo back in April, 2010 and as part of the JV Agreements it included Cargill providing the Barley Supply Chain staff person.  So, I am a Cargill employee, but am assigned to working with InteGrow Malt.

I had experience in purchasing malting barley out of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming with Cargill Malt over the past 15 years, and also was located in Great Falls, Montana with Cargill in a trading role for a few years, too, so it was a good fit for everyone.  I am also on the InteGrow Management Team, which also provided another new challenge for me.

A barley field day

A barley field day

6.) Tell us about your job:  My primary responsibility is to source all the malting barley needed for InteGrow Malt plant each year.  I work with Growers and also Commercial Elevators to source approximately 8 million bushels of high quality malting barley in Eastern and Southern Idaho along with some coming from Montana and Wyoming.  A fairly high percent of our grain is contracted ahead of time, so we start purchasing grain in the Fall for the upcoming planting season the following summer.

I schedule all the malting barley, which comes in by trucks throughout the year to keep the plant supplied with up to five different malting barley varieties that are grown in these areas.   Much of the malting barley production is irrigated but we do have some growers that raise malting barley dryland as well.  In addition, I also work with Cargill Malt’s Barley Supply Chain teams in Spiritwood, North Dakota and Biggar, Saskatchewan to help source malting barley and soft white wheat out of Idaho for Cargill Malt plants located in Spiritwood and Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

Manning the Relay For Life kebab grill

Manning the Relay For Life kebab grill

The benefit of being a Cargill employee working for the joint venture enables me to bring Cargill’s grain marketing expertise into the day-to-day operation of InteGrow.  I am also on the 5 person Management Team along with the General Manager, Production Manager, Plant Engineer and EHS/HR Manager; we are charged with the day to day operation of the plant.  The General Manager reports to the JV Board of Directors which is made up of Cargill and now Anhueser-Busch InBev.  Anhueser-Busch InBev bought out GModelo in June, 2013 and became our partners.

7.) What kind of background to you have?
I grew up in North Dakota and worked for farmers there, and also for my father who owned and managed grain elevators there while I was growing up.  I attended North Dakota State University in Fargo, and obtained a BS Degree in Agricultural Economics.  I started with Cargill in 1979 right after graduating, and have lived in 10 different places across the country.  I have worked in various grain trading roles along with asset management roles in Nebraska, Iowa, Virginia, Montana, Texas, North Dakota and Idaho.

8.) Can you tell us of any interesting, cutting edge or fascinating things about your field ?
The malting and brewing industry is been a fun one to get involved with over the past 15 years.  Although it seems pretty simple to take raw barley and steep it, germinate and kiln it into finished malt, there are a lot of challenges along the way.  Each malting barley variety is different, and each crop year is different, so we always seem to have challenges to make the many quality specifications that our brewing customers want – consistently – time after time after time.

Prepping a test plot

Prepping a test plot

The 2014 crop year was a disaster because we had multiple rain storms that cause severe quality and sprouting problems with our local malting barley.  This cost our growers and the malting and brewing industry millions of dollars.  Another challenge we face is to continually work on finding new malting barley varieties that work better agronomically for our growers while still providing the malting attributes and brewing qualities that the brewing customers want.

9.) What are the biggest challenges?
Competing crops across the U.S.  Malting barley growing areas have created a challenge to keep growers interested in growing malting barley.  Barley acres have been declining in the U.S. as other crops that have better agronomic advantages along with risk management tools available enable growers to have more options than they did many years ago.

10.) What are your thoughts on the field of agriculture today? We will always need agriculture to produce safe and reliable food for the U.S. and the world.  For anyone who likes agriculture and wants a challenging career there will be many opportunities in the coming years, in many different areas of agriculture.

Technology is changing so fast in agriculture.  Who would have thought that GPS, yield monitors and auto-steer would be available for our growers’ farm equipment so they can monitor yields and fertilizer, seed and chemical applications would ever be possible?  The same can be said for genetics and growing more bushels on the same acre.  Wow!  In order to feed the growing world population we need well educated and excited people to continue entering the world of agriculture to fill the future jobs across the entire spectrum of agriculture, from production to processing to manufacturing and distribution.  There will be a lot of fantastic opportunities for smart, motivated and educated young people!

11.) Do you participate in civic or industry organizations?  Over the years I have really liked to give back to the communities we live in and have participated in many different organizations, including Cub Scouts, Lions, Optimists, Chamber of Commerce Boards and Ag Committees, Golf Boards, Community Foundations, Art Centers, Farm Safety for Just Kids, Water Matters, United Way, Relay for Life and so on.

Receiving the 2013 Friend of IGPA Award

Receiving the 2013 Friend of IGPA Award

In addition to these, I also have been involved with various Grain Associations, American Malting Barley Association, Idaho Grain Producers Association (2013 Friend of IGPA Award), Idaho Barley Commission, North Dakota Barley Council.  As an Industry person we visit the Idaho Congressional delegation offices each February in Washington, DC with Idaho growers, to help them to reinforce the need for crop insurance and farm bills, among other important legislation that impacts Idaho Agriculture.  Of course I was a Graduate of Class 34 of Leadership Idaho Agriculture.

12.) Do you have any stories about your career you’d like to share?
Having been blessed with some many great opportunities while working for Cargill over the past 35+ years, it has been exciting to see all the different crops that are grown across the U.S.   Being from North Dakota originally – there are many, many crops grown there – but until getting to other states – I was able to see sorghum, cotton, peanuts and tobacco crops for example.  It is simply amazing how diverse U.S. agriculture is across the country in different geographies and climates.

Also, technology has changed so much.  I started out with a land-line phone as a rookie merchant and Cargill had a teletype-wire system which was pretty cutting edge back in the 70’s for communications and was really the “email” system of it’s time.  Now we have smart phones, computers, iPads, and the internet.  Information moves at the speed of light now.  When I first started my career it took much longer to for markets to react to weather news and supply and demand impacts than today.  Now everyone has access to the same information and it comes down to how fast computers and people can process it and react.  Back then, a ¼ of a cent move in the grain futures markets was “big,” and now we see much bigger moves in price in a matter of minutes or even seconds.

I also really get a kick out of taking photographs while out doing field inspections during the summers, and have had many opportunities to document agriculture and the landscapes.

Lovely windmill and sheds

Lovely windmill and sheds

Next time you enjoy a mug of your favorite beer, raise a cheer and a thanks to John Zeitz, for his good work in producing that beer!  Thank you John!

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2 Responses to Agribusiness Profile – John Zietz

  1. Steve Kaufman says:

    Great Profile! John was gracious enough to tour several of his North Idaho LIA Classmates (including me) through the Integrow Malt plant, and it was so interesting to learn more about what he does. Thank you John for being such an amazing advocate for your industry!

    • Robin W.L. says:

      Hi Steve! Thanks for your comment about John Zeitz’ post. Thefarmgirl loved it, and he really gave her and her husband a good tour of the facility. I think I need a beer! Take care. -Robin

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