A Fantasy Island

“No man is an island, but some of us are pretty good peninsulas.”
— Solomon Short

Personally, I happen to love the above quote. Not only is it a very clever play on land mass definitions, I particularly like its underlying message — that no matter how hard an individual tries to stay isolated, he or she will eventually interact or be touched by someone in the great wide world.

Besides people, industries are not islands, either, though it may seem so at times. Take our own business, agriculture, for example. When you look at the downtrodden and negative news coming out of the general economy — housing foreclosures, massive layoffs, and skyrocketing gasoline prices, to name a few — agriculture seems like a pretty solid island. Many grower-customers are flush with cash from last year’s high commodity prices, equipment manufacturers are running their factories non-stop to keep with demand, and the ethanol wave keeps expanding. For the average ag retailer, this has translated into record revenues, as witnessed by last year’s CropLife 100 report, with total sales among this group approaching the $15 billion mark.

To appreciate how deeply this “positive island” mentality is running, consider this comment from one retailer I recently visited. When I asked this 11-year industry veteran about market conditions in his area, he beamed back with this response: “It couldn’t be better,” he said, a gleam in his eye. “Many of our customers talk about how much of a golden age agriculture was back in the 1970s. But from what I’ve seen, we are living in the definitive golden age of ag right now.”

This is a fine view of the state of ag, except for the fact that our industry is not an island of total prosperity. There are negatives out there — high fuel and transport prices, tight fertilizer supplies, and perhaps most devastating of all, the recent floods that all but wiped out 10% of the nation’s corn crop and caused more than $1 billion in crop losses overall. True, having more money makes these negatives easier to swallow, but they still hurt.

Veterans of this business will point out that these events are nothing new. Fuel and fertilizer issues are ever-present in this industry, and crop losses inevitably happen somewhere in this country year in and year out. I agree.

However, going back to our analogy, looking like an island of plenty in an ocean of despair can be dangerous. Several retailers I spoke with say that the incidents of trespassing and thefts at their outlets are on the rise. In particular, those facilities that store fuel have been frequent targets. In other cases, retailers are being forced to park all their vehicles indoors or empty their fuel tanks each night because of the threat from gas thieves.

Even worse than the petty thefts, ag is under attack from other sectors of the economy for appearing to be an island of wealth. Trade and special interest groups are trying to undermine money-making parts of our business such as ethanol. Despite this, many ag associations continue to act as islands, pushing member needs while attacking other groups within the ag community.

In this kind of environment, it’s important that the various groups within ag come together to protect all our interests. Going it alone with an “island mentality” will clearly not work.

Leave a Reply

Latest News
Young Corn Plants
ManagementTimac Agro USA Acquires Michigan Ag Retailer
January 20, 2017
Timac Agro USA, an agriculture supply company specializing in high-efficiency plant and animal nutrition products, has acquired St. Louis,MI-based A&E Ag, Read More
Soybean field
Crop InputsNufarm Teams Up With John Deere Financial
January 19, 2017
Nufarm and John Deere Financial have teamed up to help farmers grow a better tomorrow. This program helps make purchases Read More
Sonny Perdue
LegislationTrump Formally Picks Perdue As Agriculture Secretary
January 19, 2017
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump officially announced Sonny Perdue as his choice for secretary of agriculture on Thursday, selecting a former Read More
ManagementPresident Trump, Wisconsin Review, and a Dow-DuPont Upd…
January 18, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj reflect on a new administration, a recent winter show, and crop protection company mergers. Read More
Industry NewsBayer, MS Technologies Get China Approval For Balance G…
January 18, 2017
MS Technologies and Bayer have received import approval from China for Balance GT soybeans. The new Balance GT Soybean Performance Read More
Werner Baumann, Bayer AG, and Hugh Grant, Monsanto
Industry NewsReport: Monsanto, Bayer CEOs Among Latest to Make Trump…
January 18, 2017
The chief executive officers of German chemical giant Bayer AG and U.S. seed behemoth Monsanto, Werner Baumann and Hugh Grant, Read More
Giant Ragweed
HerbicidesStudy: Focusing On Weed Seedbank Can Help Manage Herbic…
January 18, 2017
Researchers writing in the latest issue of the journal Weed Science provide important insights on the control of herbicide-resistant giant Read More
Management3 Financial Trends To Watch In Agriculture
January 17, 2017
I recently had the opportunity to attend a meeting of credit managers for Midwest ag supply and input companies, in part Read More
Andersons Retail Store
CropLife 100The Andersons To Close All Retail Stores; Shutdown Does…
January 16, 2017
In a stunning announcement to the Toledo area, The Andersons Inc. said on Sunday that it would close its two Read More
Trimble TMX-2050 In-Cab Display
Eric SfiligojPrecision To Lead Agriculture In 2017?
January 16, 2017
Another new year is upon us! And I’m certain I speak for many in the agricultural world when I say Read More
Corn
Eric SfiligojThe Mood From Madison? In A Holding Pattern
January 16, 2017
Last week, I had the chance to attend the annual Wisconsin AgriBusiness Classic show in Madison, WI. It’s been a Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsAccenture Helps Syngenta Transform Its Global Logistics
January 13, 2017
Syngenta, a leading agriculture company, has collaborated with Accenture to design and implement a new digital logistics operating model across Read More
Fall Creek Seth Harden The Nature Conservancy
StewardshipLocal Farmers’ Watershed Initiative: Continuous Improve…
January 13, 2017
The goal in the Big Pine Watershed Project is to more intentionally do what local farmers and responsible ag retailers Read More
HerbicidesEPA Expands Enlist Duo Herbicide Registration To 34 Sta…
January 13, 2017
The U.S. EPA has expanded the geography for application of Enlist Duo herbicide from 15 to 34 states. This means Read More
Olson Ag Enterprise
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Acquires Nebraska Seed Retailer
January 13, 2017
Wilbur-Ellis’ Agribusiness, a recognized leader in precision agriculture technology and the distribution and marketing of plant protection, seed and nutritional Read More
ManagementDeere-Precision Planting Update and the Ag Secretary Wa…
January 12, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj provide the latest on the court date for John Deere/Precision Planting and the quest Read More
Monsanto sign
Seed/BiotechMonsanto, NRGene Form Agreement For Big Data Genomic An…
January 12, 2017
Monsanto Co. and NRGene have announced that the companies have reached a non-exclusive, multi-year global licensing agreement on NRGene’s genome-analysis Read More
AGCO Custom applicator
SprayersAGCO, Asmark Institute To Offer Training For Beginning …
January 11, 2017
AGCO Corp. and the Asmark Institute are collaborating to offer a new training program dedicated to educating and developing custom Read More