Seeding The Future

Editor’s note: Although retailers have generally enjoyed a reprieve from gloom and doom stories of a shrinking sales base for crop protection and fertilizer and low crop prices, the importance of seed getting into the mix of offerings for full-service organizations hasn’t gone away. In fact, given the pipeline of biotech traits that’s poised to unleash updated and new technology over the next five years, seed is of growing importance.

The writing was on the wall a decade ago when biotech crop adoption started its run up in U.S. agriculture. For the full-service retailer to survive the fast declining value of crop protection products, seed would need to develop into a profit center to help offset some of the loss of revenue. But it wouldn’t be as easy as clearing some warehouse space, hiring a few folks, and printing off brochures.

There were, and continue to be, many barriers. The farmer-seedsman distribution system firmly in place in the 1990s turned some grower-customers into competitors for early retailer adopters of seed, and in many cases delayed a retailer’s entry into seed sales. Growers were used to buying from growers. Selling seed takes a different approach, and the learning curve is steep.

Still, seed has slowly advanced in importance at the full service retail outlet over the past decade, and both seed manufacturers and retailers have learned plenty of lessons about the market, and each other, over the past 10 years. And while it continues to evolve, and sales territories vary widely in their acceptance of the retailer as seedsman, there’s a clearer vision of how seed works effectively and profitably at the dealership.

“For retailers that have dedicated salespeople on the road and working with customers on a range of inputs, seed is a fit,” says Dave Schumacher, corn marketing manager for Mycogen Seeds. “Seed aligns well with retailers handing it in conjunction with other inputs – especially considering that herbicide and insecticide tolerant traits are a major part of seed today. It makes the decision more integrated.”

“The retailer has always been the ‘go-to’ guy for chemicals and fertilizer,” concurs Justin Wolfe, regional sales director for Monsanto. “In the future, many products will tie the seed to the chemistry — the system approach is a natural evolution. The retailer is the one person that has an opportunity to work with the farmer on the entire package.” =

“Retailers are accelerating their ability to provide leading expertise,” says Jamie Leifker, marketing manager at NK Seeds. “Most are capable of providing solutions to meet grower needs in the marketplace — that is, a complete solution vs. just a product. They grow business by being solutions-driven rather than product-driven, especially with seed.”

This should not be confused with the notion of pre-building “bundles” that fit groups of growers, something that hasn’t at all proven successful, says NK’s Leifker. We’ve not seen success dragging bundled offerings across multiple geographies. When we can go into a retailer and help customize a bundled solution for the grower to meet his specific needs — this has been extremely successful. We are engaging the retailer in a planning process that identifies issues we believe are impacting the grower, helping them understand the agronomic needs that are not being met, and building a solution that the retailer can offer to the grower.”

Roy Berrey, seed division manager at Pearl City Elevator in Lena, IL, says the ability to package up products and seed has been a key advantage for their operation. Building integrated programs that bundle the best seed with the appropriate crop protection, fertilizer, and agronomy recommendations is a high value service to the cooperative’s grower customers. “We take a lot of time building recommendations for specific farmers,” he says. “Farmers are rightly very independent on decisions – there are lot of zeros behind every decision they make – but if we take the time to recommend a strong program, and if we have a trusted relationship with the grower, we can succeed.”

Driven At The Top

So what do successful retailers selling seed have in common? First and foremost, a seed program must be driven by the highest levels of management to reach its true potential.

“The retailers that succeed in seed have two attributes – dedication and focus,” says Wolfe. “And that focus needs to come from really strong commitment from its leadership.”

Pearl City Elevator has been selling seed since 1995, but didn’t make significant inroads into the seed market until the early 2000s, when it became apparent that crop protection revenues were going to take a permanent bite out of the company’s profitability, notes Berrey.

“We started getting management recognition that seed was becoming a bigger play in profit potential as Roundup Ready crops began to seriously devalue the crop protection market,” says Berrey. “The focus had to shift to seed to recapture that lost revenue.”

Leadership commitment is what drives investment in resources and, most importantly, the people to execute the vision. In an ideal world, says Wolfe, there is a dedicated individual who drives training and sales within the retail sales force. Adds Schumacher, “When we look at strong reselling dealers, they all have some of the same attributes. They are committed to the business long-term, they have someone who understands the product they are representing and the customers they are dealing with.” 

At Pearl City, Berrey heads up and drives the seed effort, but all the salespeople sell all three inputs. The benefit to that has been the ability to provide a total view of the agronomic strategy, and ultimately the bottom line profitability of a particular farm as they relate to the seed choice.

At retail operations where the economies of scale won’t provide for a seed manager, then the salesmen must get as deep in knowledge as possible and have the skills to position all three inputs, says Wolfe. “Not everyone can do it — you can get spread too thin. Some guys end up driving a floater or doing some other tasks, and don’t get the time they need to develop the seed business, and this development time is critical to success. It can be a three-year process to get on a farm and in a situation where you can position products with a grower.”

The 800-pound gorilla in the room these days is the labor shortage, warns Leifker. “In general, we are sensing a war for talented people out there,” he says. “Retailers must not only focus on attracting and hiring very capable and energetic people, but also on keeping them. Talented people in the ag sector are a rare and precious commodity.”

Despite the challenges, the diversity of expertise and depth of resources put the full-service retailer in a strong seed position, if the retailer makes the full commitment to retaining talent.

“We will continue to bring new and innovative traits and genetics to increase yields, but we still believe that one-third of future yield is in better agronomic practices,” asserts Leifker “Retailers are in a place to capitalize on this opportunity with capital investments in equipment and technology to more actively support growers facing high input costs.”

“What we see is that growers today are adopting new technology faster than ever,” adds Schumacher. “Growers are willing to invest more because the value payoff is higher. Retailers that stay educated on traits and products in the market can accurately represent the value of the products and will make the farming operation more profitable.”

Leave a Reply

Seed/Biotech Stories

Crop InputsGMO Pipeline Features Consumer Targeted Modifications
April 15, 2016
The newly approved GMO Simplot Innate potato, developed to produce lower amounts of the harmful-yet-natural chemical acrylamide, resist bruising, and Read More
Crop InputsReuters: Chinese GMO Seed Espionage Making Iowa Farmers Uneasy
April 12, 2016
Tim Burrack, a northern Iowa farmer in his 44th growing season, has taken to keeping a wary eye out for Read More
Peanut field
FungicidesArysta LifeScience Receives EPA Approval Of Fungicide Seed Treatment
April 5, 2016
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced it received approval from the EPA of RANCONA V PD, a broad-spectrum fungicide dust Read More
Crop InputsMonsanto’s Dicamba Cropping System Cleared For 30-Day Comment Period
April 1, 2016
Today, EPA announced a 30-day public comment period regarding the in-crop use of dicamba herbicide with Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton Read More
Trending Articles
Eric SfiligojReasons For Hope In Commodity Prices
May 2, 2016
For many months now, the doomsayers have ruled the day in agriculture. Too much supply with too little demand would Read More
Eric SfiligojMissing The Family Ties In Agriculture
April 25, 2016
By its nature, the agriculture market is cyclical. Up and down cycles come and go with a regular pattern. For Read More
HerbicidesHerbicide Resistance In Waterhemp Continues To Grow
April 22, 2016
Twenty-five years ago, waterhemp was virtually unknown to Illinois farmers. Today, the broadleaf weed blankets corn and soybean fields across Read More
Eric SfiligojBiotech Corn Drop More Economics Vs. Consumer Rejection
April 18, 2016
Since their introduction into the agricultural marketplace, biotech crops has steadily grown in acreage in the countries of the world Read More
Crop InputsBayer: 5 Reasons We Disagree With Maryland Neonic Ban
April 12, 2016
We’re disappointed that the Maryland legislature chose not to stand up for sound science and the rights of Maryland’s homeowners Read More
Corn
OpinionChallenging Global Economic Conditions Putting More Heat On U.S. Ag Retailers
April 7, 2016
There it is. That vague, slightly sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach. Things are getting weird out there. Read More
Latest News
Young Corn Field
Crop NutritionEnhancing In-Season Nitrogen Use Efficiency Is In The D…
May 5, 2016
Spring is here and crops are in the ground. Do you have a plan for your nitrogen during the growing Read More
ID3 Air Induction Flat Spray Nozzle | Lechler
Nozzles2016 Nozzles And Tips Report: Waste Watchers
May 5, 2016
Every year in the spring, ag retailers and their grower-customers prepare for the coming crop season. This involves prepping crop Read More
Industry NewsHELM AGRO Adds New Marketing & Business Development…
May 4, 2016
HELM AGRO US, Inc. has announced the hiring of Troy Bettner as the company’s new Marketing & Business Development Leader. Bettner Read More
Palmer amaranth in soybean stubble
HerbicidesWSSA: Billions In Potential Economic Losses From Uncont…
May 4, 2016
What losses would corn and soybean growers experience if they were forced to eliminate herbicides and other control techniques from Read More
Spray Drift
HerbicidesRoundup Ready Xtend: Silver Linings In Label Delays For…
May 4, 2016
Since 2014, Monsanto has trained more than 20,000 growers and retailers on all aspects of its new dicamba-tolerant system at Read More
Syngenta headquarters in Basel, Switzerland
Crop InputsSyngenta Board Appoints New CEO
May 4, 2016
Syngenta announced today the appointment of J. Erik Fyrwald, currently President and CEO of the U.S. chemistry distribution company Univar Read More
Crop InputsIntrexon Establishes Crop Protection Enterprise
May 4, 2016
Intrexon Corp., a leader in synthetic biology, has announced the formation of Intrexon Crop Protection (ICP), a wholly-owned subsidiary dedicated to Read More
Patriot 4440 Sprayer close up
ManagementFlashing Back And Moving Forward On Spray Drift
May 3, 2016
The potential for pesticide drift remains an unavoidable feature of modern agriculture. Here, too, history repeats itself. “When Roundup debuted, Read More
Giant Ragweed
HerbicidesSurvey Provides Insights On Giant Ragweed In The Corn B…
May 2, 2016
A new survey published in the journal Weed Science offers insights into the distribution and management of giant ragweed, a Read More
Truck dumping dry fertilizer
FertilizerFertilizer Logistics Q&A: Southern States’ Joe Wlod…
May 2, 2016
Joe Wlodkoski, Director of Agronomy Procurement, Fertilizer, Southern States Cooperative, is a 40-plus year fertilizer industry veteran. He is quite Read More
Eric SfiligojReasons For Hope In Commodity Prices
May 2, 2016
For many months now, the doomsayers have ruled the day in agriculture. Too much supply with too little demand would Read More
West Central Dome structure
FertilizerFertilizer Logistics 2016: All Clear, So Far
May 1, 2016
After a relatively hairy early start to the spring fertilizer movement season with flooding in Louisiana and St. Louis, things Read More
BAICOR
CropLife 100BRANDT Acquires Utah Specialty Fertilizer Company
April 28, 2016
BRANDT, a leading agriculture retailer and manufacturer of specialty ag products, has acquired a majority interest in BAICOR, L.C. BAICOR, Read More
Soybean field
Industry NewsVerdesian Life Sciences Adds Vice President Of Business…
April 28, 2016
Verdesian Life Sciences has announced the addition of Marc Treurniet to the plant health and nutrition company’s management team. Treurniet Read More
ManagementBiotech Crops Developments and Millennials
April 28, 2016
Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Paul Schrimpf talk about the latest activities in biotech crops and a major shift in the Read More
Industry NewsNachurs-Alpine, Pathway Biologic Extend Marketing Agree…
April 28, 2016
Nachurs-Alpine Solutions (Marion, OH) and Pathway Biologic (Plant City, FL) announce an extension to their exclusive marketing agreement specific to Read More
MicronutrientsCharah Add Three Warehouses For SUL4R-PLUS Fertilizer
April 28, 2016
Charah, Inc., a total solutions company providing unparalleled service and innovation for the coal-fired power generation industry, announced today that Read More
Spenser Forgey, Yahama Fortix
FungicidesIndiana Farmer Wins Arysta LifeScience FORTIX Fungicide…
April 28, 2016
Arysta LifeScience North America recently presented Spenser Forgey, a grower from Young America, IN, with a new 2016 Yamaha Grizzly Read More