A longtime collaboration between the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences at the University of Arkansas and a leading grain advisory company will be enhanced when the department of agricultural economics and agribusiness offers a course in grain basis trading. Basis trading describes the process by which grain firms use the futures market to offset price risk and to profit from merchandising grain.

The course will be delivered in an online format that will enable industry personnel to enroll. For the past 11 years, the three credit-hour course has been offered only in the spring semester but the online format will allow it to be offered in both fall and spring semesters.

The new distance education format will begin in spring 2012 through the university's Global Campus.

Through the university's collaboration with White Commercial Corporation of Stuart, Fla., and Kansas City, Professor Andrew McKenzie will team teach the class with Sherry Lorton, White Commercial's director of education. Lorton has 30 years experience in the grain industry.

Don White, chairman of White Commercial, visited the campus to discuss the plans with Bumpers College faculty and administration. He said the course offering would provide essential information to more students.

"The secret to the movement of all food is basis trading," White said. "Basis trading skills turn into an art that you can use in so many places. And our business has to grow. People have got to have food."

"The course provides students with a detailed working knowledge of futures markets, price risk management techniques and their application to agricultural markets," McKenzie said. "Over the years we have collaborated extensively and very successfully with White Commercial Corporation to obtain professional input and assistance in course development. Through this academic-industry partnership, the course has helped provide students with the relevant tools and skills needed to embark on a career in the grain industry."

Students who complete the course will receive the White Commercial Level 1 grain merchant certification, a nationally recognized professional qualification in grain merchandising.

The online format, in addition to making the class available to industry personnel, will also permit the UA Global Campus to market the class to students at targeted colleges and universities in the region and around the nation. The online format will also allow up to 40 or more students a year to take the course, up from about 25 a year who have been taking it under the traditional lecture format.