Ag Retail Delivering Value Despite the Distance

This has been quite the month for your CropLife® magazine team, adjusting to the travails of social distancing and digital engagement amongst ourselves. Working from home is likely old hat for many of you, but it’s been a bit of an adjustment for us … or at least for me.

But the relative lack of distraction has allowed me to catch up with folks via phone and email to get a sense for how you all are responding to the temporary restrictions on engagement. And I’ve been pretty impressed with how many are seizing the opportunity to demonstrate the value of the digital connectivity.


My friend Erich Eller, who operates an independent consulting firm in Indiana called Forefront Ag Solutions, put out a terrific memo to his customers that laid out the ways that he’s able to remain effective in his work despite any social distancing restrictions that have come into play.

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Some of the key aspects he highlighted included a field-by-field planning document that would be emailed and discussed over the phone, and the availability of live, shared field information through cloud-based software.

Eller also noted that he and his team are monitoring weather stations and insect smart traps for infestations and pest thresholds, and using imagery and scouting to tie together weather, trap, and imagery.

I’ve also noticed many retailers going out of their way to communicate with growers and partners to keep everyone as calm and confident as possible despite the bad news and uncertainty that’s been everywhere. Being the “good men and women in a storm” is where the retail channel has always earned its stripes.

Last, I’ve been impressed with how many state associations have stepped up communication and activity, and how the Agricultural Retailers Association has represented the distribution channel with lawmakers and regulators through this difficult time.

I rang up Agricultural Retailers Association President Daren Coppock to ask him about the recent challenges, and he said, “ARA members consistently tell us they join the organization because of our federal advocacy work, and the last few weeks have been a critical time for us to have the members’ backs. Through the work we’re doing and the steady flow of important information, our members have an advantage and a partner in Washington.”

ARA was involved in a number of issues, including the designation of agriculture as a critical industry, a fundamental piece that shaped federal policy and state stay-at-home orders.

Driver credentials, applicator licenses, and hours of service, access to personal protective equipment, seasonal labor availability, and helping retailers craft employee and community communication have all been important member services.

From the Beltway to the Corn Belt, we’re not just getting by in these stressful times — we’re delivering great value despite the distance. Congratulations to you all.