Make no mistake about it – nothing gives you as unique a perspective on the state of our industry then getting out into the field and seeing how things are for yourself. Last week, I spent five fun-filled days driving across all of Iowa and parts of Southern Minnesota with one of our sales representatives, Rick Welder. No matter where we went, Rick and I saw agriculture in all its glory.
On the grower-customer side, there was plenty of activity in the farm fields of the Heartland. Although many of the fields in the southern parts of the state were already planted, there was still much fieldwork taking place, from liquid fertilizer applications to seed planting.
In the ag retailer world, dealerships and cooperatives were in the middle of the season, shipping out fertilizer, seed and crop protection products via multiple truckloads on a daily basis. Most of the retailers we spoke with said they thought 2012 would be at least as strong a sales year as 2011, if not slightly more so.
Not surprisingly, however, the majority of activity currently taking place in the ag world is on the manufacturing side. On our trip, Rick and I visited with dry box manufacturers, tender/spreader makers and high-tech builders – and they all indicated the same thing: Business is booming.
“Right now, if you order a product from our plant, we won’t be able to deliver it before the end of January 2013,” said one equipment representative. “We are as busy as we have ever been.”
At present, it seems most of these manufacturers would love to have more help in their plants, particularly on the welding and fabricating side of the equation. At most facilities, “Help Wanted” signs were posted for skilled laborers in these positions. In one case, a large Big IRON manufacturer in the area had purchased spots on some local radio stations to recruit workers.
All-in-all, these are great times for the agricultural market. Hopefully, the good times extend beyond the Heartland and will touch all parts of our business for the rest of 2012.