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Gift allows UI ag students to learn about capital markets

Sean Ellis

Capital Press

A University of Idaho program will teach more agricultural degree students about using capital markets to manage risk on the farm. A $250,000 grant from an agribusiness company will allow the program to renovate its trading room and include more students.

MOSCOW, Idaho — A $250,000 gift from a major agribusiness company will help University of Idaho students learn how to use capital markets to manage risk on the farm.

UI officials said the donation from CHS Inc. will allow the university to bridge a gap between its College of Business and Economics and College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

CHS, a Fortune 100 company, is a global agribusiness firm based in Minnesota that is owned by farmers, ranchers and cooperatives across the country.

Combined with separate $100,000 gifts from U.S. Bank and the Barker family, $100,000 of the CHS contribution will help fund a major renovation of the university’s Barker Capital Management and Trading Program trading room.

Created in 2004, the Barker program provides students hands-on education in risk management using market-based solutions, including commodity markets.

The program is unique in that its students manage portfolios of funds and trade real money in real time.

“We are impressed that the University of Idaho is providing a live-trading experience and the program includes both ag and business students,” said CHS Foundation President William Nelson. “We … view the Barker Trading Room as an excellent example of innovative, student-oriented, practical education in a very strong land-grant institution setting.”

Barker Trading Program Director Terry Grieb said having students manage real money is a critical part of the program

“You have to understand how the market works by putting capital at risk and managing that risk,” he said. “Sometimes they get their fingers burned, but overall we do pretty well.”

The renovation will allow the program to significantly increase the number of trading stations, from seven now to as many as two dozen, Grieb said.

“The bottom line is, the program has grown beyond the space we have in the lab,” he said. “These gifts will allow us to do a better job of delivering the program.”

The university plans to have the new trading room ready for the beginning of the 2014 school year.

The remainder of the CHS donation will support three years of the program’s operations and will allow significantly more CALS students to learn about trading agriculture commodities and risk management in the farming industry.

There are people who understand the capital markets but have no agricultural background and people with an agricultural background who don’t understand how to manage risk using the markets, said Grieb.

“We want to bring them together,” he said. “We’re trying to provide both of those pieces.”

Idaho grain farmer Bill Flory said there is increasing demand in the industry for people who know how to use capital markets to manage risk in an agricultural setting.

“Capital is one of the major legs (farmers) stand on every day,” he said. Without having the ability to manage risk “as one of the tools in your tool box, you don’t have much of a tool box to operate out of in this production age.”


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