A Sacred Trust

Although I’ve been active in the ag retail community for eight years, I have unintentionally picked up a nickname that harkens back to one of my earlier trade journalism careers. I was reminded of this fact at the recent Commodity Classic show when I introduced myself to someone I’d never met before who had seen my picture in the magazine.

“Oh,” said the Midwestern ag retail representative. “You’re the beverage guy — the one who’s always saying our industry is like the soda business.”

OK, I can take a hint. Since taking over this editorial page a few years ago, I’ve apparently spent too much time comparing the similarities I see between today’s ag retail business and the beverage world I covered for a dozen years back in the 1980s and 1990s. So for this month’s column, I can promise you I won’t be comparing how the our marketplace is headed in the same direction as the one I knew 10 years ago in terms of consolidation, general business practices, or management structure.

Instead, let me take this opportunity to explain what I see as the one undeniably unique aspect of the ag retail business compared with the beverage industry, or any other, for that fact. Essentially, this “point of uniqueness” boils down to a single word. But it’s a very powerful word, which accurately portrays the role ag retailers play within the general agricultural economy. Without this particular characteristic working in their favor, ag retailers could easily be headed down that same road to irrelevance that my old friends in soft drink bottling seem to be going toward at an increasing speed.

The word is “trust.”

By their nature, ag retailers have a very special — and in many cases, long lasting — bond with their grower-customers. Again, I was reminded of this fact at the Commodity Classic. During one press briefing hosted by a crop protection manufacturer, one attendee asked a speaker if some of the industry’s recent trend toward grower application meant ag retailers would find their role diminishing.

“Not at all,” said the speaker. “Our research shows that 70% of grower decisions regarding crop protection and application work is made based upon retailer recommendations. Even with today’s easier-to-apply chemistries, retailers are still able to put together the best packages with companies and pick the best products from each for their grower-customers to use.”

This speaker went on to cite some very eye-opening statistics on how deeply this trust between retailers and grower-customers goes: The average amount of time a grower has worked with the same retailer is 17 years. On the reverse, the average amount of time a retailer has worked with the same grower-customer is 30 years.

Over the years, I’ve talked with ag retailers who have built up strong friendships with their grower-customers. This has included attending holiday parties at their homes or serving as godparents to their children. In 12 years of covering the industry, I never met a beverage bottler that had these kinds of relationships, either with their suppliers or customers.

Trust is the hallmark of this business. Without it, ag retailers are no different than any other distibutor based industry. With it, however, they are something totally unique.

Leave a Reply

Latest News
ManagementWashington Visit and Bayer/Monsanto Deal Update
May 26, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discusses a recent trip to DC and the latest news on the proposed pairing Read More
Fertilizer closeup in hand
Industry NewsVerdesian: Striking A Balance Between Yield & ROI
May 26, 2016
Finely tuned nutrient management plans are helping farmers throughout the U.S. improve nutrient use efficiency, increase return on investment (ROI) Read More
Crop InputsLand O’Lakes Announces Minnesota Water Quality Pa…
May 25, 2016
Governor Mark Dayton and Land O’Lakes, Inc. President and CEO Chris Policinski today announced a new public-private partnership to protect Read More
Soybean Plant closeup
Industry NewsMonsanto Rejects Bayer Bid; Open To More Talks
May 25, 2016
Monsanto Co, the world’s largest seed company, turned down Bayer AG’s $62 billion acquisition bid as “incomplete and financially inadequate” Read More
Corn close up
Crop InputsArysta LifeScience Establishes Global Headquarters In R…
May 25, 2016
Arysta LifeScience has announced plans to relocate its global headquarters from West Palm Beach, FL, to Cary, NC, over the Read More
fertilizer blending and storage, Top 100
BlendersCHS Dakota Expansion Features AGCO’s GSI InterSys…
May 25, 2016
The continued growth of precision agriculture has increased farmer use of customized fertilizer blends best-suited for their soil conditions. Several Read More
ManagementAgriculture 3.5: A Bumpy Road Ahead
May 24, 2016
You may have read my article a few years ago on Agriculture 3.0, which is a term I coined to Read More
Topcon’s X30 display with CropSpec sensors
EquipmentGPS Autosteer Systems: Product Updates From Precision A…
May 24, 2016
Throughout 2015 GPS Steering solutions continued to evolve from what was once an after-market add on, to today’s cab where Read More
Trimble TMX-2050 In-Cab Display
Eric SfiligojThe Precision Ag Revolution Continues
May 24, 2016
It’s funny how much “the first time” tends to mean to someone as they get older. I sometimes can’t recall Read More
Eric Wintemute, AMVAC
Precision AgAMVAC Ups The Ante With New Precision Ag Technology
May 24, 2016
A potentially industry-changing at-plant soil treatment system from American Vanguard Corp., or AMVAC, is coming soon to large growers in Read More
Dry and Liquid Plant
CropLife 100CropLife 100 Map
May 24, 2016
The new CropLife 100 map shows the locations of each of the headquarters of the 2015 CropLife 100 retailers. The interactive Read More
Southern States Cooperative
Corn Field
Industry NewsTiger-Sul Names Veteran Account Manager To Lead Central…
May 23, 2016
With the continuing growth of the sulphur bentonite and precision crop nutrient industry, global agriculture firm H.J. Baker has announced that Read More
Bayer sign
Industry NewsReuters: Bayer Defies Critics With $62 Billion Monsanto…
May 23, 2016
German drugs and crop chemicals group Bayer has offered to buy U.S. seeds company Monsanto for $62 billion in cash, Read More
Eric SfiligojPity The Monsanto Haters
May 23, 2016
An old saying goes thus: “Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.” Given current events, there Read More
Industry NewsCompass Minerals Hires Industry Veteran To Lead Plant N…
May 19, 2016
Compass Minerals has hired plant nutrition industry veteran Vatren Jurin to steer the company’s portfolio expansion into specialty liquid micronutrient Read More
ASMARK Retailers LIVE! Tour 2016 Group shot The Andersons
CropLife 100The Andersons Rejects Unsolicited Proposal From HC2
May 19, 2016
The Andersons, Inc. has announced that its Board of Directors has rejected two non-binding, highly conditional, unsolicited proposals from HC2 Read More
glyphosate
Crop InputsWHO: Glyphosate ‘Unlikely’ To Cause Cancer
May 16, 2016
Via Reuters.com reporter Kate Kelland: The weed-killing pesticide glyphosate, made by Monsanto and widely used in agriculture and by gardeners, Read More