Thinking Forward

The time to panic is when things are going really well. As a kid who grew up Catholic, it was the mantra we lived by. If things are going well, just wait ­— the blessings you’re enjoying will inevitably be followed by equal and opposite misfortune, so say your prayers and be vigilant! Still makes me shudder.

As an adult, this ground-in way of living manifests itself in my constant search for the next storm beyond the calm, the hidden thorn in the rose.

When it comes to agriculture, it’s not hard to find issues to be concerned about. For instance, everyone is concerned about the stability of crop prices and the persistent volatility in the cost of inputs. Land values continue to rise, and growers are increasingly emboldened to take more responsibility for products and services that retailers have traditionally provided.

But when you take the altitude up higher, the future could hardly be brighter for folks working in agriculture. Food demand is projected to increase with the growing population for the next 40 years. Fuel utilizing corn or other biomasses will also continue. With finite land resources available for growing crops, and some of the best land resources right here in the U.S., it should be nothing but blue skies.

Well, not so fast. One of the side effects of good times is that everyone on the outside begins looking for a piece of the action, while everyone on the inside hunts for ways to make even more hay while the sun is shining.

On the one end, you have folks like my brother-in-law, who over the last few years has been working to build wealth by buying and trading on the stock market. He told me about some of the agriculture market stocks he’s bought and sold and some of what I would consider very cosmetic reasons for buying and selling. But he recognizes that in a bum economy, agriculture is a place he needs to nose around.

On the inside of agriculture there’s all sorts of measured change occurring. Growers are getting bigger and more demanding of “competitive” pricing. Fertilizer manufacturers are managing supply and business to generate as much profit as possible in an increasingly global market where the U.S. is no longer the top dog as far as consumption. Seed companies are in a tooth-and-nail battle for market share as each claims victory in some aspect of the race for top yield for its genetics. You should see my e-mail inbox — “battle” is too gentle a word.

How does your operation fit as the market continues to change? Are you taking the time to think about how your business will need to evolve over the next three to five years to stay viable?

It’s a really difficult question, especially for some of the small to medium side, full-service retailers who do an exceptional job servicing grower-customers, but who struggle to find the time for strategic, long-range planning.

We have a small staff here at the magazine, and I think we do an exceptional job at the day-to-day work. Long-range planning can seem like a chore, and frankly it can make your head hurt, with little immediate gratification.

But with things changing so rapidly and both internal and external pressures pushing down on the business, thinking forward is a necessary exercise. In 2011, we at CropLife® will be getting at these key issues and offering strategies to help you manage change.

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Paul Schrimpf Stories

Corn
OpinionChallenging Global Economic Conditions Putting More Heat On U.S. Ag Retailers
April 7, 2016
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The Andersons Waterloo
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May 25, 2016
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May 23, 2016
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July 27, 2016
On July 14, the House of Representatives passed a bill requiring large food companies to label products containing genetically modified Read More
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Storage Tanks at Nachurs
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July 27, 2016
NACHURS announced today that it has joined Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, a leading multi-stakeholder initiative working Read More
Illinois Researchers
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July 26, 2016
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Kochia
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July 25, 2016
Nufarm introduces Scorch herbicide for U.S. farmers and ranchers combating a broad range of troublesome broadleaf weeds. A unique premix Read More
ManagementNew Rabobank Report Calls for Farmer ROI Focus
July 25, 2016
As U.S. row crop farmers brace themselves for a third year of negative margins, Rabobank believes farmers must lower the Read More
Syngenta Sign
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July 22, 2016
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Crop InputsMonsanto: EU Approves Roundup Ready 2 Xtend Imports
July 22, 2016
Monsanto Co. announced today that the European Commission has granted import approval for Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans. This milestone Read More
Syngenta headquarters in Basel, Switzerland
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July 22, 2016
On September 1, 2016, Syngenta will transfer sales and distribution of alfalfa seed to the NEXGROW branded business that is Read More
Dow DuPont
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July 21, 2016
DuPont and The Dow Chemical Company announced that, at their respective special meetings of stockholders held today, stockholders of both Read More
ManagementLand O’Lakes Announces SUSTAIN Business Unit, Oth…
July 20, 2016
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Monsanto Luling Plant
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July 20, 2016
One of Bayer AG’s top 20 shareholders said Wednesday it may make sense for the life-science company to launch an Read More
Young Corn Closeup
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Case sprayer nozzle closeup
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Soybean Field
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The Ohio Soybean Association (OSA) has announced that State Representative Brian Hill (R-Zanesville) has been named one of two Legislators of Read More