Stewardship Across The Chain

Ted, Louanne Deerkop ERA Sign

Change is constant, and learning to cope is critical. And, as agriculture becomes more global, there is much to learn from others in similar businesses, whether they are in the next county or half-way around the world. That’s what one U.S. ag retailer took away from his recent trip to Mexico.

“I would never have been able to imagine how much I would learn from this trip,” said Ted Deerkop, manager of The McGregor Co.‘s Garfield, WA, location, as he prepared to return home. The McGregor Co. — Garfield, was recognized as the 2006 Environmental Respect Award National Winner, and Ted and his wife, Louanne, made the trip as a result of this award. The Deerkops visited Latin America winner Pro-Agro del Noroeste near Culiacán, Mexico, and other Mexican locations as guests of DuPont Crop Protection, CropLife® and Farm Chemicals International

Pro-Agro: Social Responsibility

In a conference room in Pro-Agro’s new office, Cos­me Cota, Culiacán Branch Manager, presents the Pro-Agro story in English to his guests and co-workers. Pro-Agro’s story of success as a dealer/distributor of crop inputs is similar to many ag retail businesses in the U.S.: hard work, service to growers, and education in helping customers understand the value of knowledge and service.

Founded in 1986 and owned by Roberto Her­erra, Pro-Agro considers its competitive edge to be made up of three elements: a full line of crop input products, the best technical support, and “truly personal service.” Making it work, said Cota, is a commitment to people.

“It’s very clear to us that a company’s future can not be built without quality, committed people who will not neglect their responsibility to protect the environment as they serve our customers,” said Cota. 

Pro-Agro, explained Cota, is intent on providing state-of-the-art technology that enables growers to express value through the chain. The 70 top growers they serve are shipping about 90% of their vegetable products to the U.S. Pro-Agro works to hold their customers to U.S. regulatory standards rather than those of Mexico. The company achieved an ISO 9001 certification in the year 2000 for its efforts toward a quality process for service.

Stewardship issues, it would seem, run across borders and throughout the value chain. Product stewardship, as practiced by DuPont and other basic manufacturers, is also expressed through companies like the McGregor Co. and Pro-Agro. In turn, those dealers and distributors must help growers express this stewardship to the consumer. Whether it’s proper product use or appropriate food safety measures, missteps may affect the whole chain. Just ask any spinach grower about the effect of tainted produce.

Agricola Pony: Premier Brands

Jesus Masao Castro blows the horn on his white pickup truck. It’s the signal for his employees to come to the packing facility. The trucks full of tomatoes are arriving from the field and he needs all hands on deck.

A forklift unloads huge white bins from the truck and an automated system takes over, tipping the tomatoes down a chute into their disinfecting bath, then rinse, then a sort for obvious culls, another electronic sort by size and color and a final sort by hand into waiting boxes bearing one of three Agricola Pony brands. It’s a process that continues seven days a week during the long growing season in the tomato state of Sinaloa, Mexico.

This growing operation is clean to the point of compulsion. A small snack food wrapper has somehow found its way onto the concrete apron of the processing plant. In seconds, it gains the hurried attention of a nearby worker dashing to retrieve it before it’s noticed. 

It’s a part of the culture for this Mexican company that sells 3.5 million 25-pound boxes of special Roma tomatoes each year in the U.S. Masao, who started the business 40 years ago, knows that continued success for him and his son, Omar, in marketing his produce in the U.S. requires a special emphasis on food safety. His system is working; the Agricola brands are commanding a premium price. Pro-Agro adds value to this business relationship by helping Agricola safeguard its produce — and its image — from the time the seed goes into the soil. 

How much things change; how much they stay the same. 

We are standing in the Museum de Anthropologia in Mexico City reading a translated account of how Mayan agriculture operated and how important corn was to that society, hundreds of years B.C. 

One museum writing points out that those Mayans who studied the way corn grew and became experts in these agronomic activities were revered as having a special knowledge of their gods. These ancients studied the weather, the soil, the path of the sun, they studied the plant. In many ways they were considered priests. 

Ted Deerkop chuckles when I mention that perhaps this is a description that his big wheat-growing customers of the Palouse would buy, since they so rely on advice from him and his staff. “Yeah, I may not be charging enough,” he smiles. But then, today’s U.S. ag dealers don’t run the risk of being publicly sacrificed, either, as did some Mayans.

It’s fair to say that Mexico’s tradition of “crop advisors” or “agronomic consultants” predates our own U.S. experience. In the U.S. during the 17th Century, there was Squanto, long the example used by the fertilizer industry as the origin of the knowledge of plant nutrition in the U.S. The Mayan culture was studying this about 2,000 years earlier. 

After eight days of touring dealerships and growing operations in Mexico, what did we learn? Environmental stewardship crosses centuries, time zones and countries. It is important, not only to agricultural dealerships, but across the entire value chain. Manufacturers are pioneering new ways to help dealers; dealers are looking for the best ways to serve growers and growers are looking to serve their customers with the best products. Top notch business, in all areas of agriculture globally, focus on customer service, environmentalism and ultimately food safety — from seed to supermarket. 

Leave a Reply

Stewardship Stories

StewardshipMichigan Agriculture Leaders On Toledo Water Ban: We Want To Be Part Of The Conversation
August 8, 2014
Leaders of Michigan agricultural organizations said Thursday that the government should not have a “knee-jerk reaction” based on last weekend’s water ban in Toledo due to fertilizer run-off in Lake Erie. Read More
StewardshipBayer Lands Honor For Bee Care Center, Other Initiatives
June 3, 2014
Bayer Corp. has been named a 2014 Responsible Care Company of the Year by the American Chemistry Council, thanks in large part to its Drive Toward Zero initiative and North American Bayer Bee Care Center. Read More
StewardshipStrip-Tillage: A Sustainable Effort
March 3, 2014
As sustainable agriculture grows in popularity, interest in custom strip-tillage is growing. Read More
StewardshipCTIC Granted Nearly $500,000 To Examine Benefits Of Cover Crops
October 17, 2013
The Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) has received a $482,000 Conservation Innovation Grant to study the benefits of cover crops. Read More

Trending Articles

Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
Many new products were introduced to the ag retail marketplace this year. From this group, CropLife IRON and its consulting partners have selected five finalists for the Product of the Year award. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
CropLife 100CHS To Build $3 Billion Fertilizer Plant In North Dakota
September 5, 2014
The fertilizer plant in Spiritwood will be the single largest investment in CHS history, as well as the single largest private investment project ever undertaken in North Dakota. Read More
EquipmentNew Holland Acquires Miller-St. Nazianz
September 3, 2014
The assets of Miller acquired as part of the transaction will become part of New Holland Agriculture, a CNH Industrial brand, building on a successful four-year partnership between the two companies. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires East Kansas Chemical
September 2, 2014
Ranked 82nd on the CropLife 100, East Kansas Chemical will operate as part of Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More
MAGIE 2014 ShowStopper
EquipmentJohn Deere Again Wins MAGIE ShowStopper Award
August 25, 2014
For the second consecutive year, John Deere was honored at the Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) for its new R4045 sprayer. Read More

Latest News

Syngenta
Crop InputsSyngenta Launches Plant Breeding Academy
October 1, 2014
Syngenta announces the release of its Breeding Academy, a global initiative designed to enable the continued development of scientists at Syngenta and beyond. Read More
FertilizerFertilizer Outlook And Technology Conference Set For No…
September 30, 2014
Conference participants can expect to gain perspective on the outlook for agriculture and major fertilizer materials and inputs from industry experts. Read More
MicronutrientsVerdesian Acquires Micronutrient Supplier
September 30, 2014
Verdesian Life Sciences has acquired QC Corp., a producer and supplier of granular and dry micronutrients and ferrous sulfate products. Read More
Eric SfiligojHearing From Young Ag Voices
September 30, 2014
Potential future leaders in ag retail had the chance to shine at the recent Mid America CropLife Association meeting. Read More
WebinarsUpcoming Webinars
September 30, 2014
Register for one of our upcoming Webinars or access our archive of past Webinars to view recordings of presentations that may be of interest to you. Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta Appoints New Chief Operating Officer
September 29, 2014
Jon Parr will succeed retiring COO John Atkin at the end of the year. Read More
CropLife 100South Dakota Wheat Growers To Add Grain-Agronomy Facili…
September 26, 2014
Planned to be constructed in Kennebec, the facility will be located along the soon-to-be rehabilitated line of heavy-rail service from Chamberlain to Presho. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Announces Vice President Appointments
September 25, 2014
Two individuals have been appointed Vice President positions on the GROWMARK executive team. Read More
FertilizerFertilizer Industry Organizations Join Global Alliance …
September 25, 2014
The Fertilizer Institute, the International Plant Nutrition Institute and the International Fertilizer Industry Association are encouraging the industry to promote the proper use of fertilizer products to minimize their environmental impact. Read More
Precision AgARA Organized Precision Forum Hits Capitol Hill
September 24, 2014
The Coalition for the Advancement of Precision Agriculture (CAPA) hosted its inaugural Precision Ag Forum, Sept. 18, in Washington, D.C. Read More
FertilizerFactors To Consider When Placing Fertilizer With Seed
September 24, 2014
The type of crop, fertilizer source, row spacing and soil environment all affect how much fertilizer can be safely applied with seed. Read More
FertilizerSidedressing Manure Into Corn Has Promising Results
September 24, 2014
Applying manure to growing crops can boost yields, reduce nutrient losses and give livestock producers another window of time to apply manure to farm fields. Read More
FertilizerWhen To Sample Manure For Analysis
September 24, 2014
Because the goal is to collect a sample that represents the manure actually being applied, the best time to sample is during loading or field application. Here's why. Read More
Syngenta
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Faces Second Lawsuit Over Agrisure Viptera Cor…
September 23, 2014
A second company has sued Syngenta AG over sales of genetically modified corn seed not approved by China. Read More
StewardshipCover Crops Field Guide For Farmers Expanded
September 23, 2014
Farmers interested in planting cover crops to improve soil health now have an updated and expanded resource in the second edition of the Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide. Read More
HerbicidesArysta LifeScience Launches Contest For Wheat Growers
September 23, 2014
The Flush after Flush Photo Finish contest encourages farmers across the U.S. to participate through Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #FlushAfterFlush. Read More
FertilizerCF Industries Confirms Merger Of Equals Discussions Wit…
September 23, 2014
CF Industries Holdings, Inc. has confirmed that it is in preliminary discussions with Yara International regarding a potential merger of equals transaction. Read More
StewardshipProgram To Examine Ag-Related Practices, Policies To Pr…
September 22, 2014
A panel discussion on October 14 will include a significant discussion on key issues and solutions related to all aspects of harmful algal blooms. Read More