Ag Industry Braces For Uncertainty In 2014

Happy 2014, everyone! A new year has arrived, bringing the promise of good times and fortunes for the business of agriculture.

At least I hope this will be the case.

As I prepare this column for publication, I’ve just returned from the annual Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) meeting. Not only is this a great venue to see some old industry friends and catch up on the latest trends impacting the ag retail community, it is a great place to gauge the overall feeling ag retailers and their grower-customers have regarding the upcoming year (in this case, 2014). For the past several years, I’ve come away from the ARA event feeling pretty confident that the year ahead would be another in a string of very positive ones for ag.

But I’m not as certain about the prospects for 2014. For the first time since the 2008 meeting, I came away from ARA 2013 feeling a bit worried. In fact, some retailers I talked with are absolutely dreading what 2014 might bring.

“There’s a new reality dawning for the corn market, which has been steadily driving overall growth these past five years,” said one Midwestern ag retailer. “Many growers are starting to recognize the new normal isn’t $7 per bushel corn, but $4 per bushel corn, and they are adjusting their crop inputs accordingly.”

In many cases, said ag retailers, this has meant dialing back fertilizer application work during the second half of 2013. Several ag retailers I talked with at ARA said their fall fertilizer sales were slow to “non-existent” during the early fall months of September and October. Only late in the year — starting in mid-November just before Thanksgiving — did ag retailers report their fertilizer application work matching historic levels.

Fertilizer suppliers in particular seem to be gearing up for a rough 2014. In fact, in early December, PotashCorp announced it was reducing its workforce in Canada, Trinidad and the U.S. by approximately 1,000 employees because of slowing demand. “This sluggish environment has been most visible in our potash and phosphate businesses, and has contributed to challenging market conditions,” said PotashCorp President/CEO Bill Doyle. “As a consequence, we must make some difficult decisions to ensure the company continues to be well positioned for the future.”

And there are, of course, many other concerns on ag’s plate going into 2014. Besides dropping commodity prices and declining fertilizer demand, there are reductions in the ethanol blend requirements, the continuing spread of weed/pest resistance and the lack of a new Farm Bill, to name a few.

An old Chinese curse wishes that the listener “live in interesting times.” Given all the uncertainty that currently exists in agriculture as the industry starts the 2014 season, I’d say we are definitely there already.

Leave a Reply

Eric Sfiligoj Stories

Young Corn Closeup
Eric SfiligojThe Read On 2017 For Agricultural Fortunes Is Anybody’s Guess
December 5, 2016
As I (and others) have written in recent months, the nation has just experienced one of the most offbeat election Read More
ARA
Eric SfiligojTaking The Industry’s Pulse At ARA
November 28, 2016
When most of you read this particular column, many of the industry’s key folks will probably be spending at least Read More
Bayer Monsanto
Eric SfiligojCrop Protection Mergers: Will They Or Won’t They?
November 14, 2016
Fall is in full swing and many sports fans probably spend the better parts of their time looking at the Read More
Eric Sfiligoj2017 Agricultural Outlook Not As Dire?
November 7, 2016
As 2016 heads towards its conclusion, there are many of us in the agricultural marketplace already looking forward to what Read More
Trending Articles
Mike Stern
Precision AgClimate Corp. CEO Talks Retailer Support For Digital Ag
December 1, 2016
CropLife Magazine’s sister publication, AgriBusiness Global, recently sat down with Mike Stern, CEO of The Climate Corp., following the Monsanto subsidiary’s Read More
Precision AgTrimble Debuts End-to-End FMIS Platform
November 28, 2016
October’s inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference left this author with many thoughts and things to ponder in the coming months. Probably Read More
CHS Primeland
CropLife 100The 2016 CropLife 100 Report: Reviewing The Many Bulls And Bears Impacting This Year’s Marketplace
November 28, 2016
For virtually all of 2016, the nation was wholly focused on the big Presidential election. Some folks aligned themselves with Read More
Monsanto sign
Crop InputsMissouri Governor Meets With Bayer CEO To Discuss Monsanto Merger
November 21, 2016
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon visited Bayer AG global headquarters in Leverkusen, Germany, on November 18 to discuss the proposed Bayer-Monsanto Read More
STS16 2017
SprayersHagie Manufacturing Releases 2017 STS16 Sprayer To Market
November 16, 2016
Hagie Manufacturing LLC’s largest full season applicator is now available with enhancements for the 2017 model year. Hagie is officially Read More
Wilco
CropLife 100Valley Agronomics, Wilco-Winfield To Form New Agronomy Joint Venture
November 11, 2016
Valley Agronomics LLC, headquartered in Rupert, ID, is a joint venture between Valley Wide Cooperative and Winfield Solutions, LLC. Wilco-Winfield, Read More
Latest News
Forage Sorghum
UncategorizedMilestone Achievement Continues For Dow AgroSciences, A…
December 7, 2016
New and innovative forage products are on the horizon driven by continued collaboration between Dow AgroSciences, a wholly owned subsidiary Read More
Palmer pigweed seedhead in cotton
HerbicidesNew WSSA Factsheet Explores Weed Seeds And Their Longev…
December 7, 2016
Did you know some weed seeds can lie dormant in the soil for more than a century and then sprout Read More
Crop InputsARA 2016: 5 Developments Worth Monitoring Into 2017
December 6, 2016
You can pretty much set your watch to it (do people even still wear watches? I know I do…but I’m Read More
Tim McCardle, ARA Chairman
CropLife 100BRANDT COO Named ARA Chairman
December 5, 2016
BRANDT EVP and Chief Operating Officer Tim McArdle has been named chairman of the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) during a Read More
Crop InputsWilbur-Ellis Receives ResponsibleAg Certification At Mo…
December 5, 2016
Wilbur-Ellis Co., a recognized leader in precision agriculture technology and the distribution of crop protection products, announces the ResponsibleAg certification Read More
Young Corn Closeup
Eric SfiligojThe Read On 2017 For Agricultural Fortunes Is Anybody’s…
December 5, 2016
As I (and others) have written in recent months, the nation has just experienced one of the most offbeat election Read More
Acceleron B-300 seed coating
Crop InputsThe BioAg Alliance Launches New Yield-Boosting Microbia…
December 5, 2016
As part of their commitment to develop and commercialize innovative microbial solutions for farmers through The BioAg Alliance, Monsanto Co. Read More
ManagementCorn and soy planting update; Takeaways from Climate Co…
December 2, 2016
AgriBusiness Global Editor Dave Frabotta Joins Paul Schrimpf for a discussion of global corn and soybean planting trends, and a Read More
Radish cover crop taproot
Crop InputsSoil Health Institute, Datu Research Receive Grant To E…
December 1, 2016
The Soil Health Institute (SHI) and Datu Research have announced a $626,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation to quantify the Read More
Mike Stern
Precision AgClimate Corp. CEO Talks Retailer Support For Digital Ag
December 1, 2016
CropLife Magazine’s sister publication, AgriBusiness Global, recently sat down with Mike Stern, CEO of The Climate Corp., following the Monsanto subsidiary’s Read More
ManagementAg Industry Comes Together To Address Climate Change
December 1, 2016
Addressing climate change — and more specifically, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture — can only be achieved through collective Read More
Young soybean field
HerbicidesLiquid Formulation Valor EZ Herbicide Available For 201…
December 1, 2016
Valent U.S.A. Corp. has released Valor EZ; a liquid formulation of the company’s leading herbicide, Valor. Named Valor EZ Herbicide Read More
Key Cooperative Marcus Construction Steel Building
ManagementThe Value Of Cooperatives In Modern Agriculture
December 1, 2016
Editor’s Note: Jaxon Mullinnix of  Lone Tree, IA, was recently named the Iowa state winner of the 2017 GROWMARK essay Read More
AGCO Operator of the Year Tony Kornder
SprayersAGCO Names Tony Kornder Operator Of The Year
December 1, 2016
AGCO Corp. names Tony Kornder with Genesis Growing Solutions in Le Sueur, MN, the 11th annual Operator of the Year. Read More
Chris Henney OABA
ManagementOABA Industry Conference To Provide Outlook For Future …
November 29, 2016
The upcoming Ohio AgriBusiness Association Industry Conference is packed with widely-respected speakers and industry professionals, sharing their expertise on a Read More
Corn
InsecticidesMajor Review Finds Neonic Poses Low Risk To Aquatic Inv…
November 28, 2016
A major new ecotoxicological review and risk assessment has been published in the peer-reviewed literature and concluded that registered crop Read More
EquipmentGSI Details New Grain Drying Efficiency System for Coop…
November 28, 2016
Grain elevators and ag co-ops are always looking for ways to increase their energy efficiency to help improve profitability. For Read More
Precision AgTrimble Debuts End-to-End FMIS Platform
November 28, 2016
October’s inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference left this author with many thoughts and things to ponder in the coming months. Probably Read More