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Corn+Soybean Digest

Secret-less Agent

He doesn't have a British accent. There's no decoder ring or message that self-destructs. He's not even a secret agent. But to his customers in Dowhart, TX, he's as cool as 007.

Located in the northwestern Texas Panhandle of Dowhart, purchasing agent Danny Morrison uses his 20 years of experience in the fertilizer and chemical business to procure competitively priced inputs for his group of grower-customers.

His business offerings help producers lower their costs of production and maximize time and production efficiency. The further up-shot is that it allows them to concentrate more on actual corn and other crop production and less on worrying about which dealer to use.

In all, his clients operate more than 35,000 acres, most of which are corn. Four of his customers include Paul Gore, Steve Yoder, Scott Ferris and Rod Bohlender, all of Dalhart. They each farm from 2,000 to 4,500 acres of corn under center pivots.

All worked with Morrison for several years when he was their fertilizer and chemical rep. When he started an independent procurement service, they liked the idea that he could take over some of their workloads.

A key benefit is being able to count on one person to handle fertilizer and chemical purchases, says Gore, whose farm operations also include acreage in southwestern Kansas, near Elkhart. “I call him my purchasing agent. Nearly every good-sized company has a purchasing agent whose job is to find the best price on products. Why shouldn't we as farmers?”

Gore likes the fact that, with Morrison on board, the process of negotiating prices and deliveries is much less time-consuming. He handles virtually all negotiations, follow-up phone calls to dealers and other communications.

Morrison helps growers' bottom lines by combining acreage, when possible. Basically, he's aware of a particular grower's needs. He then goes to one or more dealers to negotiate a price and other particulars. “It's the dealer's choice as to whether he wants to work directly with one grower or a group of farmers who may have similar needs,” Morrison says.

Because of the volatility of product costs, he tracks prices daily. This helps him make more informed recommendations on the timing of purchases, product formulations that can vary widely and volume of purchases of future inventory needs.

Savings vary from farm to farm and grower to grower. Bohlender, for example, enjoyed 15%-plus savings on dry fertilizer for corn land, thanks to negotiations between Morrison and a dealer.

Yoder saved heavily on anhydrous ammonia. “Working with Danny, I locked in all my anhydrous needs in November 2000 for half the price it was in late February (about $400/ton),” he says.

Ferris and Gore had similar savings. Gore even bought and shipped fertilizer from Dalhart to his Elkhart farm at a lower price than he could find there.

And there's no Internet buying to find a better price, although he does monitor the Internet and other sources for comparison of prices offered by local dealers. “We feel we can get what we need from local dealers,” says Morrison. “It's good for the community to keep that business here.”

A local co-op, Dalhart Consumers Fuel Association, is among suppliers working with Morrison and his clients. “This program has opened some doors to producers we weren't serving before,” says Jim Turner, co-op manager who added sales to at least 20,000 acres by working with Morrison's clients.

Morrison's record keeping service is a benefit Gore sees as invaluable when it comes to measuring a crop's cost of production. “This whole program is one that involves a lot of trust,” stresses Gore. “We trust Danny, and when we meet informally to discuss our operations, we trust each other's word. It's a great program.”

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