Dropping An ‘F’ Bomb

Now that I’ve covered this market for nine years, I’ve found that true surprises are becoming fewer and farther between. In the past two years, I’ve had only two truly jaw dropping moments — one in 2007, when an equipment owner said he didn’t believe the boom in the ag economy would last so he wasn’t expanding (a correct assessment, as it turns out) and one in 2008, when I learned that a well-respected manufacturer was struggling to impress customers with its precision offerings.

The third jaw dropper happened during the 2009 Commodity Classic. I could never have predicted this one, given what I think I know about the industry.

Before I get to this moment of surprise, let’s look back. Exactly one year ago, I wrote a column praising the ability of ag retailers to build long-lasting, strong relationships with their grower-customers while providing them with not only needed inputs, but useful information. I pointed out that, compared to other markets I’ve covered, this trait seemed unique to our industry and was the key to future success/growth.

Fast forward to this year. I was sitting in a on a panel discussion of five growers during a pre-Commodity Classic event. This group had more than 100-plus years experience and farmed more than 12,000 acres of ground in the states of Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota, and Oklahoma.

Talking about current ag conditions, someone asked who these growers used as their primary information sources. Naturally, given their histories and locations, I expected all five to universally answer their local ag retailer.

Boy, was I wrong.

Three out of the five growers said they didn’t have strong relationships with retailers. The grower from North Dakota said he relied on university folks for information, adding that retailers in his area “get left in the dust.” The Oklahoma grower agreed. “I don’t have the support from my local retailer that we’ve hoped for,” he said. “We need Extension to help.” Finally, the Iowa grower said he bought inputs from several dealers — the implication being that products, not information, was what he got from retailers.

So out of five growers, only two used retailers for information. If this were a test, this 40% relationship grade would give our industry a solid “F.”

Can this marketplace maintain its historic success with a failing grade attached to one of its founding principles? I don’t think so.

Retailers everywhere need to keep their trusted advisor status intact if they hope to survive, especially in these uncertain economic times. The minute our industry becomes nothing more than a bunch of “input suppliers” is when ag retailers can all be replaced by lower cost, big box-type competitors.

Luckily, my faith in the future for ag retailers was restored somewhat by comments from the panel’s Kansas grower. “For­tunately, we have a really good retailer who knows their stuff when it comes to information,” he said.

We need to make sure all our grower-customers think this is the case.

Leave a Reply

Latest News
HerbicidesBREAKING: EPA Pulls Registration On Dow’s Enlist …
November 25, 2015
EPA on Wednesday withdrew approval of a controversial new weed killer to be used on genetically modified corn and soybeans, Read More
FertilizerYara Tampa Ammonia Terminal Garners ResponsibleAg Honor…
November 25, 2015
Yara has received its first ResponsibleAg Certification for its Tampa, FL, Ammonia terminal location. This achievement demonstrates Yara’s commitment to Read More
ManagementReviewing The Top Ag Stories For 2015
November 24, 2015
Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Paul Schrimpf discuss the most noteworthy events from this past year in agriculture. Read More
EmployeesAgriculture Jobs May Be Plentiful, But New Grads Are Sc…
November 24, 2015
Close to 60,000 jobs are set to open up in agriculture each year for the next five years, but there's not enough grads to fill them. Read More
Radish cover crop
StewardshipCover Crops Guide Helps Growers Improve Water Quality
November 23, 2015
A publication that teaches growers the advantages of using cover crops to improve soil health and crop yields has won Read More
Crop InputsThe Andersons’ Products Receive California Organi…
November 23, 2015
The Plant Nutrient Group of The Andersons, Inc. announced today that its Humic DG and Black Gypsum DG products are Read More
Eric SfiligojNew European Study Seems To Support Glyphosate Safety
November 23, 2015
Looking at any international news over the past few years, it might seem as if the European Union (EU) is Read More
Toggle Biostimulant corn roots
Crop InputsTwo New Biostimulants Added To United Suppliers’ …
November 20, 2015
Winfield US announces the launch of two new products in the United Suppliers portfolio for the 2016 crop season, Optify Read More
StewardshipNRDC Report: Cover Crops Contain Vast Benefits
November 19, 2015
As harvest season ends and farmers in the United States ready themselves for winter, one small change could make a Read More
Fall Harvest
Seed/BiotechArysta Launches New Seed Protectant
November 19, 2015
As spring wheat growers begin planning for a strong start to their season, Arysta LifeScience North America announces RANCONA V Read More
Crop InputsInocucor Receives U.S. Patent For Microbials
November 19, 2015
Inocucor Technologies Inc., the Montreal-based agriculture biotech company, was issued patent No. 9,175,258 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to protect Read More
ManagementSyngenta Rumors and ARA 2015 Preview
November 19, 2015
CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj looks at the latest rumors involving Syngenta selling its crop protection business and talks about events Read More
EquipmentAGCO Announces Finalists For Operator Of The Year Honor
November 19, 2015
AGCO Corp. has announced the four top operators chosen as finalists for AGCO’s 10th Annual Operator of the Year program, Read More
High Plains Aquifer
StewardshipStudy: High Plains Aquifer Overall Usage In Decline
November 18, 2015
A new Kansas State University study finds that the over-tapping of the High Plains Aquifer’s groundwater beyond the aquifer’s recharge Read More
Golden Harvest Corn healthy leaves
FungicidesArysta Launches New Corn And Soybean Fungicide
November 17, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America has recently launched ZOLERA FX Fungicide. The highly systemic, powerful fungicide delivers broad-spectrum disease control with Read More
Young corn plants in soil
Crop InputsBioAg Alliance: Microbials Targeted For 250-500 million…
November 17, 2015
Monsanto and Novozymes have announced a new 2025 acreage target that will guide the companies’ microbials business for the next Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsSyngenta Still Being Eyed For China Takeover
November 16, 2015
China National Chemical Corp. approached sovereign wealth funds including China Investment Corp. to help pay for a potential acquisition of Read More
Cedar Country Cooperative
Eric SfiligojCooperative Consolidation Continues
November 16, 2015
As I put this enewsletter column together, we’ve just put the finishing touches on our magazine’s annual CropLife 100 report. Read More