PACE 2009 Annual Report


The great fertilizer price crash of 2008, which left fully stocked retailers holding thousands of tons of over-market-price fertilizer that growers did not want to buy, has created some relational scars between retailers and growers, and retailers and suppliers. While retailers say their relationships with grower-customers have been evolving into being more about business than relationships anyway, this event has accelerated the trend. Handshake deals are increasingly being replaced by written contracts that must be adhered to by both sides.

Also, as growers become more sophisticated, and younger owners take over for the aging farm population, ag retailers will increasingly need to segment their customers by the level and type of service they demand. Size is one way consideration, but not all large growers are sophisticated. Younger growers have shown generally less interest in relationships, and are less tied to proximity as a reason to buy from a particular retailer. They also are steeped in agronomic training vs. their forebears.


Although fertilizer prices generally have returned to their historic norms, many grower-customers have hesitated to apply more macronutrients to their fields. If crop and fertilizer price instability returns, some growers may be tempted to “mine” soils again, against the recommendations of agronomists. According to multiple sources, soil tests in many areas are making a strong case against mining in 2010.

In addition for crop nutrients, with the change in administration, there has been a renewed interest in regulation related to agriculture from several standpoints: cap-and-trade, fertilizer run-off control, spray drift, hazmat transportation, storage, ew-evaluations, etc. Federal and state associations are working overtime to educate legislators and get agriculture’s point of view heard.

Luckily, natural gas prices have dropped from their high in February 2009. This is because shale recovery methods have added significantly to domestic natural gas stocks (providing a 300-year supply, according to some sources). This should have a long-term impact on nitrogen pricing and availability for U.S. retailers.

Crop Protection

Retailers saw a significant decline in fungicide applications in many areas of the country as grower-customers cut back on preventive applications. It remains to be seen if this market will recover during an uncertain 2010.

Branded crop protection products have made a bit of a comeback compared with their generic counterparts during the past couple of years. Observers report that with the exception of generic brands of glyphosate, grower-customers tend to prefer branded crop protection products to their post-patent counterparts.

Spray drift remains a big area of concern for the marketplace. According to industry insiders, activists have kept up the pressure on EPA to adhere to the 6th Circuit Appeals court rulings on buffer zones and product use. The industry is hopeful it can get the Supreme Court to review/overturn this measure, but this could take some time to accomplish.


Recent investments in “feet on the ground” by mega-biotech companies revealed that they are not relying on dealers to protect and sell the value of traited seed. They are happy to use the retailer for inventory storage, fulfillment, and training, but seed manufacturers are not entrusting their futures to retailers. In some instances, the seed company employee works out of the dealership, and the dealer provides product logistics and customer service. Some retailers have spent millions training their seed businesses but are not being afforded the opportunity to sell at margins necessary to keep it as a sustainable part of the retail model. Biotech company investment could signal a shift toward a “pharmaceuticals” model of selling that is more one-on-one with company representatives and more consultative as the technologies get more complex.

Some industry insiders say that demand for conventional seed in their markets has continued to grow, in part as a response to weed resistance concerns, but also in response to food processors looking for non-biotech sources.


Automatic steering systems have become popular at all levels of the ag retail community, from large multi-nationals to small independents. This popularity should continue as the technology improves accuracy and unit costs come down even further.

The use of remote diagnostics and unit support will become more widespread as wireless technology improves. This will allow retailers to capture and store application data much faster and more efficiently than is currently possible in many parts of the country.


Retailers report that demand and excitement regarding biofuels has dropped off significantly with the drop in oil prices that has made ethanol production less profitable. Still, because it seems that subsidies are not likely going away, and next generation technology is at least five years off, the belief is that the corn ethanol marketplace has at least a medium-term future. In the interim, corn ethanol will be at the mercy of non-market based factors such as mandated blend levels and minimum mandated use levels, which can’t be predicted or controlled.

Leave a Reply

Latest News
Golden Harvest Corn healthy leaves
Paul SchrimpfBuilding Relationships With Farmers During Tough Times
October 9, 2015
“So, other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?” Most of you I’m sure will recognize this as one Read More
Industry NewsResponsibleAg Selects New Executive Director
October 9, 2015
The ResponsibleAg Board of Directors today announced the selection of Bill Qualls, CPEA, as the organization’s new Executive Director. “We Read More
MRM Agricultural Service
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires CropLife 100 Ag Retailer
October 8, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC has successfully acquired the Missouri-based agronomy business of MRM Agricultural Service, LLC and its affiliates (MRM). Operating Read More
HerbicidesMarestail, Hemlock Focus Of Fall Herbicide Application …
October 8, 2015
With the grain harvest progressing on or ahead of schedule in most parts of Indiana, no-till producers should start thinking Read More
Prairieland FS employees
EmployeesA New Approach To Employee Retention
October 8, 2015
Long gone are the days when the term “career” implied to 30-plus years with a single employer. In the past, Read More
Crop InputsNew Bionematicide Meets Large Market Need
October 8, 2015
Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. (MBI), a leading provider of bio-based pest management and plant health products for the agriculture, turf Read More
Industry NewsTessenderlo Kerley Completes New California Manufacturi…
October 8, 2015
Crop Vitality, a business unit of Tessenderlo Kerley, Inc. (TKI), the North American subsidiary of Brussels-based Tessenderlo Group, and the Read More
Photo credit: The United Soybean Board/The Soybean Checkoff.
HerbicidesNew DuPont Herbicide Gives Updated Burndown Options For…
October 8, 2015
Soybean growers seeking flexible, effective broadleaf weed control have another option to add to their toolboxes. DuPont Canopy Blend herbicide Read More
EquipmentDeere Announces New API Linking Operations Center With …
October 8, 2015
Deere & Co. and DN2K have agreed to form SageInsights — a joint venture to initially serve the agriculture industry Read More
Crop InputsDuPont, Caribou Biosciences Form Strategic Alliance
October 8, 2015
DuPont and Caribou Biosciences, a leading developer of CRISPR-Cas technologies for genome editing, jointly announced a strategic alliance. As part Read More
ManagementStoller Field Trip and Upcoming Events
October 8, 2015
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss a recent Stoller Field Day, the 2015 PACE Council Meeting and another event Read More
EmployeesSyngenta First Agriculture Company To Receive Fair Labo…
October 8, 2015
Syngenta has announced that it has become the first agriculture company to receive accreditation from the Fair Labor Association (FLA). Read More
Eric Jenks, Wilbur-Ellis
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Opens Dry Fertilizer Storage And Blending …
October 8, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Co., ranked No. 4 on the CropLife 100, has constructed and opened a 22,000-ton dry fertilizer storage and blending Read More
Fall Harvest
Crop Inputs360 Yield Center: Tips For Fall N Application Season
October 7, 2015
Harvest is underway and soon farmers will start setting the stage for the 2016 season. For many, that means applying Read More
Ag retailer at computer
Matt Hopkins5 Lessons Learned From Launching An Agricultural Data B…
October 7, 2015
Like many other industries, agriculture has witnessed big data rocket up the corporate agenda. And as an ag media company, Read More
Tom Vilsack
CropLife 100USDA: Ag Retailers Posted Record Income, Revenues In 20…
October 7, 2015
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the nation’s farmer, rancher and fishery cooperatives posted record income and revenue in Read More
FungicidesNew Corn Disease Confirmed In Illinois
October 7, 2015
Symptomatic corn leaf samples from Champaign County, IL, have been confirmed positive for the bacterium Burkholderia andropogonis (Pseudomonas adropogonis (Smith) Read More
Crop InputsBASF Expands Production Capacities Of Biological Soluti…
October 7, 2015
With the opening of its expanded Littlehampton, UK production site, BASF is strengthening its ability to sustainably meet the growing Read More