Different Takes On Product Tracking

Opinions on tracking inputs through the distribution chain are varied among our CropLife 100 retailers. How far the tracking goes seems to be a key issue, and some dealers see the move as a possible threat.

“We’re not too keen on it,” says Roger Oliver, president of Van Horn Inc., Cerro Gordo, IL. “Manufacturers want to know too much – that end guy, the guy who’s buying it – and we’re afraid they’re going to use that to eliminate us.”

Greg Musson, general manager at Gar Tootelian Inc., Reedley, CA, says growers aren’t too thrilled with some of the tracking programs either. In fact, one manufacturer’s “insistence on getting point-of-sale information out of the ‘retail chain’ has pitted us against our growers, who do not want their information shared,” Musson says. “I have never seen a manufacturer use such bullying tactics in my life.”

Growers Fertilizer Inc., Lake Alfred, FL, does some electronic data interchange with a number of suppliers. “I’m not really concerned about our customers going direct,” says Brent Sutton, president and general manager. “You never say never, but because of the strong relationship we have with our customers, I feel pretty secure in thinking that won’t be problem.”

Tim McArdle, executive vice president and COO at Brandt Consolidated, Springfield, IL, notes that Brandt doesn’t usually give customer information to manufacturers. “We treat customer information with respect and confidentiality,” he says.

He doesn’t have a problem with Brandt doing tracking for customers – and actually sees it as an opportunity. “Providing that service creates an opportunity for us in the marketplace: tracking what goes on the field, what goes on the crop. Being able to document inputs and outputs creates value for the customer and the consumer.”

McArdle also thinks tracking will become more common as the government addresses environmental concerns across the country. For instance, Brandt has a relationship with Willard Agri-Service, Fredrick, MD, which moves products along the Chesapeake Bay, a region where agriculture runoff is under close scrutiny. Willard’s nutrient management plans for growers are utilizing product tracking.

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