How to Find Financial Information on Businesses

With higher margin calls and tighter credit, it's wise for farmers to take time to learn about the fiscal condition of the businesses they work with.

Higher volatility and tighter credit conditions up and down the supply chain may mean it would be wise for farmers to check on the fiscal status of the companies they work with.

"Simply going and visiting with the manager about how the business is doing is one thing customers can do," says Richard Wahl, chief of the Grain Warehouse Bureau at the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

Michael Sulzberger, General Manager at Prairie Central Co-op, Chenoa, Ill., agrees. "The manager probably wants you to understand the issues that are happening," he says.

"A lot of co-op financial information is public," says Wahl. "Reading it provides background. Financial information on private elevators won't be available.

"Our bureau looks at overall financial condition of companies. However, we only see a financial statement once a year on most companies. We see quarterly or monthly financials on some companies if we have particular concerns. But the situation can change rapidly."

Farmers can check with Wahl or his Web site www.iowaagriculture.gov/grainWarehouse.asp to see if a company is licensed.

That's pretty basic. Most everybody is licensed.

"In order to tell if company meets our financial requirements or not, farmers would have to call us and ask," he says. "Confidentiality requirements limit what we could say. We can say whether the company meets our licensing requirements and what those requirements are. If we actually had a complaint about no payment or slow payment, we'd probably start an examination to see what the situation is and if there is money in the bank account to clear checks and that sort of thing."

Some states have indemnity funds to protect people who have grain stored in warehouses under warehouse receipt. Those funds typically do not cover grain sold on credit sale contracts such as price later or delayed payment.

To find the grain warehouse regulator in your state, try the Web site www.aawco.org. Most of them are listed there.

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