But one Arkansas entrepreneur with ties to the ag industry believes he's developed an online alternative.
"The best way I've found to describe the site is to compare it to a dating service online," said Layne Fortenberry, President of grainster.com.
According to Fortenberry, his site has been in development for eight years, but went live just days after the Turner Grain scandal began to surface.
The site essentially serves as a conduit, Fortenberry said, matching sellers to end users, or buyers. Farmers can post what grain they have to sell, while buyers can post what types of orders they want to fill.
"It's taking the producer, the guys who work hard all year long, and puts them in contact directly with the end user, cutting out the middlemen, is the goal," Fortenberry said.
While the timing was coincidental, he has hopes that his site might offer a way for farmers to have an option with what to do with grain that was possibly bound to future contracts with Turner Grain but might not have a buyer now.
"The site offers two types of delivery, if you will. There are spot orders which would essentially be delivered now. And there are forward orders, which would be where those future contracts these farmers are uncertain about could look to have a place for their grain," he said.
Fortenberry said he hopes farmers and buyers will begin jumping on board, offering a free 30-day trial for folks to see what the site is about. According to Fortenberry, IEN numbers will be required of both entities. He encourages farmers to do their homework and get to know the buyers they'll be interacting with.
"We put them in contact with one another," he said. "From there, they'll sign contracts and take the next step. We don't act as the middle man, either."
Fortenberry said a membership to grainster.com would cost $500 a year, but he believes it's a bargain when compared to what farmers could pay brokers or merchandisers. While the site might eventually replace brokers, Fortenberry sees them finding a place on the site, or the site serving as another component of how farmers do business.
"It would probably be a replacement for brokers, eventually," he said. "But it's a new system, and I imagine people will find ways of working themselves into that system."
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