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Ag retailers.

A recent survey conducted by Iowa State University asked farmers to identify where they get the information they need to make sound management decisions and efficiently run their business for long-term sustainability? Greater than 90% responded that they rely on their local ag retailer.

Information management is rapidly becoming the most important service offered through America's 8,000 ag retail outlets. Product devaluation and diminishing sales margins continue to drive crop input commoditization. As profits sag, ag retailers are turning to information services to create differentiation and customer value that will attract and retain long-term business.

Through the use of precision ag technology utilizing grid-sampled soil data, GPS yield mapping, variable rate application practices, weather records, and other pertinent input, ag retailers are able to generate a wealth of information to help growers produce and market their crops more profitably. The information collected is used to help make decisions on soil and water management, cropping practices, seed trait selection, crop nutrient recommendations, crop protection requirements, and various trouble shooting situations.

The collection and use of this information, coupled with a close personal interaction, fosters a strong bond between the grower and their ag retailer. This bond is an invaluable "bridge" that efficiently links channel partners to the acre. Channel partners are usually thought of as input suppliers, but with the onset of identity preserved crops the definition is broadened to include grain processors and even consumers.

The very nature of agriculture involves a lot of risk (unfavorable weather patterns, pests, volatile markets, etc.). Ag retailers have always been involved with helping customers manage and minimize these risks. Today, with skyrocketing energy costs, wild swings in fertilizer prices, and an escalating demand for crops as biofuel sources the need for more sophisticated risk management tools is inherit. Ag retailers are responding by expanding their CCA's role as Technical Service Providers (TSPs), offering a broader range of grain marketing programs, crop insurance, and a full spectrum of other business management services. Forward pricing contracts for fertilizer with the potential for a total acre input package to be forward priced against future grain sales are being developed and tested.

Ag retailers continue to be strong advocates on behalf of their customers. As factory farming practices continue to be adopted by farmers, the need for responsible stewardship and sound environmental practices continue to grow. The professional ag retailer of today understands regulatory and legislative processes. These processes must be directed and shaped to maintain an effective balance between fair legislation and rules, and an over-reaching government with ineffective policies and practices. Growers tell their input suppliers they want their involvement in retail trade organizations, like Ag Retailers Association (ARA). They want additional support from their supplier to compliment their own involvement in ag commodity groups. Farmers recognize their ag retailer is an effective "information bridge" linking them and their acres to the world.

By Dave Coppess, Chairman, Ag Retailers Assn

Heartland Co-op, W. Des Moines, IA
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Title Annotation:MARKETING TO THE PROFESSIONALS; Ag Retailers Association
Author:Coppess, Dave
Publication:Agri Marketing
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2006
Previous Article:Certified Crop Advisers (CCA).
Next Article:National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants (NAICC).

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