More than 20 members of the PACE Advisory Council met in Chicago last October to share their thoughts on agricultural issues, and how they will likely impact the ag retailer. Below are some of the key notes from the meeting:
Servicing The Next Evolution Of Farming Operations
The farm operation is evolving in a number of different ways. Kids are coming back to the farm and running things much differently than their parents and grandparents. Operations are getting bigger to achieve scale, mitigate risk and operate more profitably. More and more growers are viewing their operations as businesses apart from the traditional way farms have been run. Retailers must have a sales force and a business model in place to adapt to this new reality.
Weed Resistance Management
Weed resistance continues to expand into larger geographies and is becoming more difficult to manage. At the same time, the next few years will bring a range of new biotech and chemical tools and techniques to manage the resistance problem. Retailers will be looked to as the trusted advisor for avoiding or mitigating the resistance issue.
Water Quality And Nitrogen Management
Regardless of what level of responsibility that agriculture bears in the movement to reduce nutrient intrusion into watersheds, agriculture is being asked to “do its part” to better manage nutrient application to reduce the possibility of runoff. Through initiatives such as The Fertilizer Institute’s “4R” program, work is underway but is far from finished. Retailers can help by engaging and even leading the discussion about agriculture’s desire to achieve best management practices.
Attracting And Retaining Talent
Finding and keeping good management professionals and application technicians continues to be a challenge faced by retailers. Learning techniques to hold on to good people is important, especially as the demands that growers place on retail expertise increases.
Farmers And Regulation
In most areas farmers are not held to the same regulatory standards that retailers are when it comes to product storage and application. In absence of increased regulation, which appears politically unlikely, farmers need to understand the importance of following basic stewardship practices for storing, transporting and applying.
A continuing frustration for ag retailers is the lack of compatibility across equipment and software that makes working with growers on precision programs difficult. Continuing to advocate greater precision technology compatibility should be a priority.
Managing Volatility And Risk
From volatile fertilizer and crop prices to the increasing globalization of agriculture, the risks inherent in agribusiness today continue to increase with no end in sight. The risk of a loss of business due to making a wrong decision about inventory and services is of great concern to retail managers. Dealerships must innovate and be prepared to deal with the market volatility.
Communicating Agriculture’s Good News
The drumbeat of negative news about “modern agriculture” continues from many traditional fronts as well as some new corners, like the local food movement and celebrity chefs. We have good stories to tell, and we need to continue to reach out to the public with these messages.