The year was 1984. Our magazine, then called Farm Chemicals, was preparing to celebrate its 90th year of publication. To make this watershed event stand out, the editors of Farm Chemicals decided to compile a listing of the Top 90 ag retailers. Today, 25 years later, the CropLife 100 has become a benchmark in the ag industry.
To commemorate this year’s 25th anniversary CropLife 100, CropLife® magazine asked ag retailers on the list to tell us what developments/moments/trends were the most significant during the last quarter-century in shaping today’s market. When all the numbers were tallied, there were three things that ranked above everything else. Here they are, in reverse order.
This was mentioned by 30% of respondents as a key development within the industry, in good times and bad. Indeed, when the market economies were poor during the early 1990s and 2000s, retailers spent a lot of time buying up each other to improve margins, expand operations, or simply get out of a struggling market. When economic times were strong (as during 2007-08), retailers looked to take some of their extra capital and invest it in increasing their market territory or simply “cashing in” on a bull market.
Whatever the reason, consolidation is here to stay. In fact, there are only 17 retailers still around from that original listing.
And as this issue was going to press, CropLife learned that CropLife 100 retailer Wilbur-Ellis Co. was buying up fellow CropLife 100 dealer Ripon Farm Service, meaning the CropLife 100 is now a CropLife 99. The trend continues!
2. HIGH TECHNOLOGY
Whether it’s using a computer instead of a ledger book or applying fertilizer to only those parts of the field that need it, CropLife 100 retailers think technology has been a wonderful thing. This was listed as the key trend of the past 25 years by 33% of those polled.
“E-commerce is the key development of the past 25 years,” said Randy Orgill, controller for Agrium Retail. “Not just Internet sales, but electronic information flow among business partners.”
1. BIOTECH SEED
This was far and away the biggest vote getter among CropLife 100 retailers. Better than 70% of respondents said that the development and acceptance of biotech seed and crops has had the biggest impact on how today’s marketplace for ag retailers looks.
“The development of traits has changed conventional product needs, conventional product development, and the way the crop protection industry makes money,” said Greg Musson, general manager for Gar Tootelian Inc.