No Retailer Fade

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While editing an article for our most recent issue of CropLife magazine, I was somewhat surprised by a quote from one industry insider about a market downturn. Now based upon the many ag industry-oriented meetings I’ve attended during 2011, I’ve found the overall mood of the marketplace to be very upbeat. Indeed, at the recent Mid America CropLife Association annual meeting, one speaker supported my point of view on this matter.

“I think it’s pretty unanimous right now – people are very enthused and energized about agriculture,” said Dr. Michael Swanson, agricultural economist and consultant for Wells Fargo & Co., speaking on the state of the general ag economy in 2011. “The amount of revenue today in the marketplace has literally tripled in the past three to four years.”

But in our October issue, however, one equipment manufacturer that said that 2011′s early season good market vibe had largely disappeared as concerns about low crop yields and regional poor harvests began to appear.

Can this be a widespread phenomenon, I wondered? For some clarification, I went to the one reliable gauge I’ve learned to trust over the years on how the ag market is performing during a calendar year – the ag retailers. At presstime, our magazine had completed sending out its first batch of CropLife 100 forms for 2011. To date, almost 20 forms have been returned. Luckily, the tale they tell is a one of good news, not despair.

When asked if their retail operations were going to be more profitable, flat or less profitable than in 2010, a healthy 86% of these early responders said they expect to be more profitable in 2011. Only 7% thought they would be less profitable, with another 7% experiencing flat sales.

Better still, when asked to rate their general feelings toward the prospect for profits in 2012 on a scale of 1 to 10, the average right now stands at a solid 7. This isn’t too far off from the 8 the industry received from CropLife 100 retailers in our 2010 survey.

As more survey forms come into our office, it will be interesting to see if these numbers hold up. I hoping they will . . .

Sfiligoj is the Editor for both CropLife and CropLife IRON magazines. He travels regularly to cover industry events and has been dedicated to the ag retail industry since he joined the staff in 2000.

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