• May 16, 2017

Serve Your Customers Through Conservation Offerings

In the hectic world of agriculture, should you, as an ag retailer, focus more energy and resources on offering conservation services to farmers? I would argue that the answer is yes. Here’s why.

1. Farmers are under pressure to bolster conservation efforts.
Look at almost any ag or environmental publication, and you will find evidence that farmers need to continue strengthening their sustainability practices. As professionals with many opportunities for contact throughout the season, ag retailers are in a strong position to influence their customers’ crop management styles, especially through the use of technology. This could include using precision agriculture tools to monitor plant health, react to weather conditions in real time, and place nutrients and crop protection products more precisely to help minimize runoff into adjacent waterways.

2. Farmers need more help.
There simply is not enough technical assistance to help farmers with their conservation needs. And now, when farmers need help the most, conservation agencies are facing the prospect of declining workforces. It’s been said that conservation agencies assist about 5 percent of farmers each year. This may seem like a lot, but if an agency plans to see or assist each and every farmer, it would take 20 years. As a retail agronomist, can you imagine making a sales call to a customer only once every 20 years?

3. You are a trusted advisor.
A 2013 survey1 of nearly 4,800 Midwestern farmers reported their most trusted advisor when making decisions about agricultural practices and strategies was their chemical and seed dealer. To paraphrase what Matt Carstens, senior vice president of Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN®, has said, there are only so many advisors who are invited into a farmer’s inner circle. This usually includes about five or six advisors, and almost 100 percent of the time, the farmer’s ag retailer is one of them. It only makes sense that the farmer would want that ag retailer to provide conservation services along with agronomic services.

Chemical dealers top the list of ag’s most trusted advisors.1

4. Farmers want their ag retailers to engage in conservation.
In 2015, Dr. J. Gordon Arbuckle Jr., rural sociologist at Iowa State University, analyzed surveys of 1,128 Iowa farmers. A majority (60 percent) surveyed agreed that fertilizer and ag chemical dealers “should do more to help farmers address nutrient losses into waterways.”2

So consider what your retail business could gain by offering conservation services or adding to any you may already have. Farmers will only be under more pressure to step up their sustainability efforts through regulation. Why not help them be compliant so that their land and adjacent waterways can remain healthy for future generations and your business can thrive?

1. J. Gordon Arbuckle Jr. Climate Change Beliefs, Concerns, and Attitudes Toward Adaptation and Mitigation Among Corn Belt Farmers. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach; research supported by USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. April 16, 2013.

2. J. Gordon Arbuckle Jr. and Hanna Bates. Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll: Farmer Perspectives on Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. May 20, 2015.

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