State Of The Industry 2012: More Of The Same

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An old sports adage says that teams should enjoy winning streaks for two reasons — they tend to happen so rarely and often end quickly, without much prior notice.

Following two very difficult years in 2008 and 2009, the world of agriculture today is on an unparalleled growth curve. And based upon information from CropLife 100 and State of the Industry respondents, ag retailers think the winning streak will continue into 2012.

“I think we will ride this horse a little while longer,” says Steve Mossbarger, facility manager for Crop Production Services, Washington Court House, OH. “When there’s more money at the farmgate like there is today, ag retailers tend to end up with more money.”

Most of Mossbarger fellow ag retailers apparently agree with this prediction. When asked to describe their level of optimism for 2012 on a scale of one to 10 on the CropLife 100 survey, 29% thought the year would rank a solid eight, with another 22% saying the year would rate a seven and 18% thinking it would be a nine. Nine percent even gave the outlook for 2012 a perfect 10. So overall, 78% of respondents believe next year will be as good or better than the one they just experienced in 2011. Only 8% thought the year would rate a four or lower on the optimism scale.

Some Warning Signs

Still, by their nature, ag retailers are a cautious lot. “Overall, when I look at the prospects for 2012, I couldn’t be more excited,” says Harlan Asmus, Asmus Farm Supply, Rake, IA. “Right now, I expect my business to be up 20% or more again, just like what happened in 2011. However, that assumes corn prices stay in their current $7 per bushel range or better. If corn suddenly drops below $5 again, the desire by growers to invest in some of our most profitable management practices such as foliar feed and fungicide use will probably wane.”

Scott Firlus, agronomy manager for Wisconsin River Coop, Adams, WI, agrees. “Right now, 2012 looks good based on the conversations we’ve had with producers and our customers,” says Firlus. “But there are always those things that could cause everything to change. And it doesn’t have to be a big something to pop an economic bubble. Instead of one big pin, you need to keep an eye out for a bunch of little pins that could do the same amount of market damage.”

Sfiligoj is the Editor for both CropLife and CropLife IRON magazines. He travels regularly to cover industry events and has been dedicated to the ag retail industry since he joined the staff in 2000.

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