A Trio Of Grower Observations

One of the nice things about the winter trade show season is the chance to see parts (and people) of the agricultural marketplace I normally don’t run into. Most of the shows I attend center on ag retailers, with some interaction with Extension folks, manufacturers and a few odd growers.

However, at events such as the Na­tional Farm Machinery Show (NFMS) and Commodity Classic, I had the opportunity to not only hear growers talk in public forums, but also to interact with them on a more one-on-one level as well.

And based upon these interactions, here are three observations that might prove insightful for how the agricultural market could play out during 2014.

Growers still love the right big equipment. At the NFMS, growers annually turn out by the thousands to see the latest in ag equipment, products and services. During most years, show traffic tends to spread out pretty evenly among the myriad exhibitors at the show. On occasion, however, a new product appears that keeps everyone buzzing the entire event.

That happened this year as John Deere unveiled its new ExactEmerge planter. Featuring a new seed delivery system, the ExactEmerge can reliably plant seeds moving at up to 10 mph. This unit had growers crowding around the John Deere booth virtually from the moment the show opened until long after it closed.

The lesson for me on this one was simple — if a product seems like it can deliver performance and efficiency in an innovative and creative way, growers will quickly purchase it for their farming operation, regardless of the price tag.

Some growers never say die — except to weeds. Another grower I met recently was Matt Miles. Based in McGehee, AR, Miles regularly grows corn, soybeans and cotton on 6,300 acres.

Like other growers in the South, Miles has been fighting a near constant battle with herbicide-resistant Palmer amaranth for the past few years. Despite this problem, Miles was able to harvest 107.9 bushels per acre of his soybeans, breaking a long-standing Arkansas state record.

“Growers have got so much money tied up in our crops, the best way to reduce risk is to increase yields,” said Miles. “Yield can always trump commodity prices.”

Grow more without less. Finally, there was T.J. Shambaugh. A corn and soybean grower from Oakley, IL, Shambaugh, like other growers, has had to deal with uneven weather, rising crop prices and falling commodity prices. However, he believes staying the course is best when it comes to crop production for 2014.

“I have no plans to cut back on input use this year,” said Shambaugh. “With margins tighter, you should try to produce more to make up the difference.”

As always, talking with these and other growers has helped open my eyes to how ag retailers can — and should — be prepared to move agriculture forward, in this year and beyond.

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