The Pros & Cons of Consolidation

It has been said that “when the rate of change outside your company exceeds the rate of change inside your company, the end is in sight.” North American agriculture is undergoing rapid and significant change throughout all links in the supply chain.

As agricultural retail dealers, we have witnessed the levels of consolidation — both upstream through the basic manufacturers and distributors as well as downstream at the farm gate — for a number of years. But the rapid consolidation at our retail dealer level has been tremendous over the last couple of years as well, and more can be expected.

Upstream for dealers, crop nutrients have undergone consolidation for nitrogen in the last several years, and phosphate more recently. Meanwhile, potash has experienced less consolidation in the last decade, but it entered with fewer players to begin with.

Upstream consolidation has also occurred in crop protection basic manufacturers as well as with seed companies.

Finding The Positive

This consolidation has not necessarily been bad news for retailers, but it has been different, and has required all of us to adopt new strategies. Some distinct positives have come from the upstream consolidation. Today, the financial performances of these basic manufacturers are in record ranges. This is important to dealers who depend upon consistent supply, investments in research and development, and innovation. It is also important to dealers in that some level of long-term reliability has been established, which is positive for lasting relationships.

Downstream from retailers, we continue to see the consolidation of farming operations. More acres are being planted by fewer operators. This consolidation has imposed new conditions upon dealers as we work to discover methods of working with these mega-farmers. The information — both agronomic and market conditions — are essential requirements in today’s dealer toolbox when dealing with this customer segment. Additional demands come from their increased consumption capacity. Tractors, planters, and combines can cover so many more acres in a single day than ever before. Dealers must have the right product at the right time in order to meet these new demands. 

This has some positive aspects in that the dealers who can meet the requirements for the larger farmers often find that they can also apply those same skills and tools across many other acres to improve the return on the investment.

Down On The Outlet

Another trend of consolidation is at the retail dealer level. As shown in the annual CropLife 100 listing, the big continue to get bigger. This year alone, we may well see the combination of the 2007 CropLife 100’s no. 1 and no. 2 (Agrium Retail U.S. and United Agri Products, respectively). Efficiency gains often are the driving force behind many of the dealer consolidations; better utilization of assets, purchasing, and distribution advantages are realized. This, too, can be advantageous to farmers who want some stability in their local dealer as well as some level of supply assurance. 

There are positives for dealers as well as we focus our efforts in defining our value proposition and differentiation in the marketplace. The market tends to be more disciplined as regulatory and compliance issues are more closely adhered and a focus upon return on investment is installed.

Of course, no article would be complete without some mention of globalization, which too carries some forms of consolidation. The growing demand around the world for the products we as retailers require has also implied the importance of consolidation. The expanding length of the supply chain has changed many dealer purchasing habits. The luxury of picking up the phone and acquiring crop nutrients, crop protection products, or seed looks to be a thing of the past. Today, dealers must find and cultivate partnering opportunities both upstream and downstream in order to assure supply and manage risk throughout the length of the supply chain. 

This, too, is a positive for dealers as we work to identify and eliminate inefficiencies and balance our risk/reward conditions. 

Not all of these consolidation issues have been welcomed with open arms, but in the long term, they will make the system from manufacturer to consumer more cost-effective and sustainable.

Leave a Reply

Management Stories
ManagementMACA 2014: The State Of The Agricultural Industry, And Then Some
October 9, 2014
The trade association’s annual gathering featured speakers from across agriculture and beyond. Read More
StewardshipA Multi-Layered Approach To Water Quality
October 6, 2014
Illinois event highlights research and technology designed to better monitor and improve water quality — and the benefits of cooperative, coordinated effort. Read More
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
ManagementRussia Bans U.S. And EU Ag Product Imports In Ukraine Sanctions Battle
August 7, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin has banned the import of agricultural goods from countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia. Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100Pinnacle Agriculture Acquires Minnesota Retailer
April 14, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC, ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100,  has successfully acquired Liebl Ag, LLC in Ada, MN.  Read More
CropLife 100CHS, Aurora Cooperative Complete Fertilizer Storage, Grain Shuttle Loading Facility
April 13, 2015
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading cooperative and ranked No. 5 on the CropLife 100, and Aurora Cooperative (ranked No. 21) Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Acquires Missouri Refined Fuels Terminal
April 2, 2015
Bloomington, IL-based GROWMARK and Magellan Pipeline Co. have entered into an agreement in which GROWMARK will acquire the refined fuels Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Acquires South Dakota Retailer
April 2, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Co.’s Agribusiness Division, a recognized leader in precision agriculture technology and the distribution and marketing of plant protection, seed Read More
CropLife 100The McGregor Co. Closes Smith-Kem Acquisition
April 2, 2015
The McGregor Co. — ranked No. 16 on the CropLife 100 list of largest U.S. ag retailers — has completed Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Commemorates National Ag Day
March 20, 2015
The Illinois agriculture community gathered at BRANDT global headquarters on March 18 to celebrate National Ag Day behind this year's theme Sustaining Future Generations. Read More
Latest News
Industry NewsCHS Insurance Names New Director Of Sales
April 17, 2015
Bryan Lewis has been named director of sales for CHS Insurance, the nation’s largest agribusiness insurance broker and full-service insurance Read More
Mature Waterhemp in Corn
HerbicidesGenetic Literacy Project: There’s No Such Thing A…
April 17, 2015
Read the latest “analysis” on GMOs from Consumer Reports and you’ll “learn” that glyphosate, the chemical developed by Monsanto (its Read More
HerbicidesNew Resistance To 2,4-D Discovered In Australia
April 17, 2015
In a world-first case of herbicide resistance, researchers have confirmed that sowthistle weed in the south east of South Australia Read More
ManagementNews From RTP Company Visits and Growers Buying Older S…
April 16, 2015
Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss recent trips to the Research Triangle Park area and market seed sales trends. Read More
soybean field
StewardshipNew ASABE Standard Establishes Framework For Sustainabl…
April 16, 2015
The American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) has initiated a project to develop a new standard to establish Read More
MicronutrientsSouthern States: An Inside Look At Our Tissue Sampling …
April 15, 2015
Remember learning about the food pyramid in school? The nutritional diagram recommends the proper amount of nutrients you need on Read More
Industry NewsArysta Adds New U.S. Fungicides Marketing Manager
April 15, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America recently hired Deneen Sebastian as its Marketing Manager for U.S. Row Crops, Fungicides. Most recently, Sebastian Read More
FungicidesVerdesian Launches Phosphite-Based Cereal Fungicide
April 14, 2015
A new, phosphite-based fungicide designed for improved suppression of deoxynivalenol (DON) in wheat and barley infected by Fusarium head blight Read More
Mature Waterhemp in Corn
HerbicidesSURVEY: Close To 90% Of Growers Battle Weed Resistance
April 14, 2015
Herbicide resistance management continues to be a priority for corn and soybean growers, and they’re working together more effectively to Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Agriculture Acquires Minnesota Retailer
April 14, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC, ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100,  has successfully acquired Liebl Ag, LLC in Ada, MN.  Read More
StewardshipFMC Corp. Joins Sustainable Agriculture Alliance
April 14, 2015
FMC Corp. has joined Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, a multi-stakeholder initiative working to define, measure and Read More
Industry NewsArysta Adds Two To Goëmar Sales Team
April 14, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced two new additions to the Goëmar sales team: Steve Kelly, Technical Service Manager – Read More
Valley Variable Rate Irrigation
Precision AgVariable Rate Irrigation Gains Followers
April 14, 2015
Irrigation systems have had the ability to apply different amounts of water throughout a field for decades, using timers that Read More
CropLife 100CHS, Aurora Cooperative Complete Fertilizer Storage, Gr…
April 13, 2015
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading cooperative and ranked No. 5 on the CropLife 100, and Aurora Cooperative (ranked No. 21) Read More
Soybean field
Industry NewsThree Ag Co-ops Poised For Possible Merger
April 13, 2015
Following months of study and preparations, the Board of Directors for United Farmers Coop (UFC), Farmers Elevator Cooperative (FEC) and Read More
Eric SfiligojAgriculture Braces For More Belt-Tightening
April 13, 2015
Spring is in full bloom across the U.S. and ag retailers and their grower-customers are busily getting into high gear. Read More
ManagementPollinator Health and Washington, DC
April 9, 2015
CropLife America’s Kellie Bray speaks with CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj regarding bee health and proposed Beltway regulations. Read More
InsecticidesValent Takes On MGK Insecticide Portfolio
April 9, 2015
As of April 1, Valent U.S.A. Corp. became the exclusive provider of the MGK crop protection line of insect control Read More