As the annual gathering for members of the ag retail community, the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) meeting is a great place to hear about the major challenges and opportunities facing the marketplace. I’ve written about several of the more high profile of these in recent columns.
However, there’s one topic I’ve not discussed yet. Part of the reason is that it didn’t come up as often as such topics as a downturn in fertilizer demand or questions about the next Farm Bill. But I believe it has the potential to dog the industry not only in 2014 but for many, many years to come.
What is this danger? One ag retailer I spoke with at ARA put it best: “I’m worried about the coming war on the way agriculture is done. There’s a dangerous disconnect between agriculture and the public and it could threaten many of the ways agricultural business is conducted.”
In many ways, this fight is already underway. For years, various special interest groups have spread their opinion that biotech crops are bad (despite scientific evidence to the contrary). In a similar manner, the regulations regarding farming near waterways and application procedures are becoming more strict.
And if industry insiders are to believed, ag retailers that handle crop nutrients are next on the list in part because of the aftermath of the West Fertilizer plant explosion. Likewise, as new cropping systems tied to crop protection products such as dicamba and 2,4-D enter the market, agriculture can expect even more scrutinity from regulators and the general public.
To combat these potential threats, it will be important to not only keep up with any activities in your areas regarding these topics, but stay in regular touch with your local, state and national trade groups. Otherwise, the problem will undoubtedly get worse before it gets better.