Farm Progress

Many farmers believe supplier relationships are worth more than savings.

Jacqui Fatka, Policy editor

November 2, 2017

2 Min Read
Highwaystarz-Photography/ThinkstockImages

If farmers want to have retailers compete and bid for your input business, beware: Your current supplier won’t be happy. And many farmers have determined that those supplier relationships are worth more than savings.

For Danny Murphy, who’s been farming corn and soybeans for 44 years near Canton, Miss., price is important, but it’s not everything for the 1,500 acres he farms.

“You always have to look for a good deal,” Murphy says. “Probably today I look a little less than I used to because I end up valuing the service more than a few cents here and there.”

Jason Walechka, who farms near Kewaunee, Wis., has 800 acres of cash crop but does 22,000 acres of custom spraying in his area. He says 75% of his purchasing decisions are based on relationships and a mentality of “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.”

He has four semis on the road, moving grain and wet distillers for his local elevator. At one point he was sourcing his fertilizer from outside the area, but gave the local elevator 100% of his fertilizer business as a way to cement the relationship since the elevator uses his trucks for some of their transportation needs.

“I do believe it is a relationship business,” Walechka says. “Retailers know they have to shoot you a good price up front.”

Related:Punch up the power of your farm input dollar: Part one in a series

He still checks outside his area to see if things are cheaper, and shares that with his retailers. “Usually they’ll match it or do what they can to keep me,” he says.

Relationships can benefit both parties, but if you’re the one with the checkbook, you need to keep retailers honest.

Know your stuff

If you’re shopping around, do your homework first. That includes learning chemistries and some seed genetics. You may get prices on generic products you’ve never heard of before.

Murphy says some of his shopping, including evaluating different herbicide programs and looking at which ones, gives the best value.

“It may not always be the best cost and might be more expensive, but may do a better job,” Murphy says.

Adam Walton, who farms 2,100 acres of corn and soybeans with his two sons near Clarion, Iowa, says he’s always trying to get the best price, and doesn’t back down from working local suppliers against each other.

He’s saved money over the years by locking in seed purchases before Nov. 1 and chemical purchases ahead of Dec. 1 to eliminate interest until the following year.

Next: What to ask for, beyond just price 

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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