Year In Review: Stormy Yet Solid Season

The 2008 season will be remembered for the mix of clouds on its horizon — floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and even drought, and at the end, a volatile economy. With all that, how did agricultural retailers fare?

The answer might surprise those outside the industry, but a quick look at the 2008 season shows that ethanol and economics, inputs and replants, biotech and plant health, and legislation and technology combined for a successful year for many retailers. (More year-end reviews can be found in the CropLife 100 report and CropLife Technology section.)

Weather Front, Center

Experts predicted that the rising cost of fertilizer and other inputs, combined with the anticipation of higher soybean prices, would lower corn planting — and they were right. According to USDA, growers planted 96 million acres of corn in 2007, the second highest acreage on record. This year, that figure was around 86 million, still one of the highest corn plantings on record — a good sign for fertilizer dealers, especially in nitrogen sales.

More unexpected was the disruptive stamp Mother Nature put on this season. First, the March floods in the Midwest not only wiped out freshly planted seedlings, but prevented growers in the eastern Corn Belt from even getting much corn or soybean seed into the ground anywhere near on time. USDA’s April 14 crop progress report reported only 2% of corn in the ground, a far cry from last year’s early planting.

In May, tornadoes ripped through the South, followed by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, which moved northward as far as Canada, leaving in their wakes acres of fields requiring replanting or drying out.

Protective Measures

All that wet weather and delayed planting gave pests a great foothold in fields, and many growers opted to use preventive fungicides again this year. Like they did in 2007, aerial applicators stayed busy.

On the flip side, glyphosate resistance continued to be a concern; glyphosate-resistant johnsongrass was confirmed in March in Arkansas and Mississippi. CropLife® magazine went on the road — with support from Monsanto Co. — to bring Extension specialists, retailers, and growers together to share strategies for identifying and controlling weeds.

Monsanto, in response to increased demand, announced it would expand its Roundup herbicide production by 20% at its Luling, LA, glyphosate manufacturing facility. U.S. growers will be given priority for the additional product.

Let’s Make A Deal

The much-anticipated Farm Bill finally passed — but a clerical error that omitted a section of the bill forced Congress to pass the bill a second time. After President George W. Bush vetoed it again, both houses of Congress overrode the veto.
There were plenty of other deals, too, especially within the CropLife 100 sector.

  • Even though Agrium’s purchase of United Agri Products (UAP) began at the end of 2007, it wasn’t finalized until mid-year. Valued at approximately $2.65 billion, the deal creates a giant with ag retail sales of more than $5 billion and more than 800 outlets.
  • Lange-Stegmann opened a new super-facility in St. Louis, MO, that handles unit trains of up to 110 cars.
  • Family business Jimmy Sanders was sold to New York, NY, firm JSI Parent, Inc. late this year. JSI Parent is an investment company led by two former Royster-Clark executives, Francis P. Jenkins, Jr. and G. Kenneth Moshenek.
  • Wilbur-Ellis Co. purchased Ripon Farm Service, LLC in mid-November.

Happy Anniversaries

Two strongholds serving the crop protection industry celebrated significant anniversaries. CropLife America turned 75, while the Mid America CropLife Association honored its golden year of 50.

On The Move

During 2008, key personnel and company changes in the industry included:

  • Andy Lee was chosen as CEO of Sipcam Agro USA, Inc, and ADVAN, LLC, now a subsidiary of Sipcam Agro.
  • Nevin McDougall was appointed vice president, U.S. Business Operations, Crop Protection Division of BASF.
  • Martin Petersen was named president and CEO of Cheminova, Inc., and serves as president of the ANZAC region, which includes the U.S., New Zealand, Australia, and Canada.
  • Trevor Thorley, president and chief operating officer of Valent U.S.A, Corp., was promoted to the executive office for parent company Sumitomo Chemical Co., Ltd. The first non-Japanese person in the position, he also added the role of general manager for Region Americas crop protection business in the U.S., Canada, and Latin America.
  • Dr. David Jones agreed to serve as non-executive chairman of Arysta LifeScience Corp., which was acquired by Industrial Equity Investments Ltd.
  • Ray O’Connor, president and CEO of Topcon Positioning Systems, was selected to be an executive officer of Topcon Corp., headquartered in Tokyo. He is the first person of non-Japanese descent and the youngest person to be named as a Topcon executive officer.
  • Edward Schafer, former North Dakota governor, became the new U.S. ag secretary, taking over for Chuck Conner, who served as acting ag secretary following the resignation of Mike Johanns. Johann’s bid to represent Nebraska in the U.S. Senate was successful.
  • CEO Peter Bromley retired from United Phosphorus, Inc. (UPI), although he will remain involved with UPI and its parent company, United Phosphorus Ltd., in a senior advisory role for a year.
  • James Fitzgerald became executive director of the Far West Agribusiness Association.
  • Key honors included:
  • Jim Jenkins of Syngenta received the Mid America CropLife Association’s (MACA) coveted Dean Roy Achievement Award.
  • Mark Riehl of Mycogen/Dow AgroSciences was honored as MACA’s Ambassador of the Year.
  • Mott Grain & Agronomy of Mott, ND, won the 2008 national Environmental Respect Award sponsored by DuPont Crop Protection and conducted by CropLife.

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