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Articles from 2000 In January


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Bank for farmers operates online

You won't find a new bank in your hometown that serves only farmers. But you can find it online. The Farm Bureau Bank opened for business last summer by servicing farm customers through an Internet site called www.farmbureaubank. com, as well as the phone and mail.

By keeping overhead costs down, the Farm Bureau Bank can offer competitive interest rates on credit cards, home loans and vehicle loans. The FDIC-insured checking and savings accounts have no service fees. And the bank also offers competitive money market and CD rates.

Banking access. "We believe our market is rural America, which doesn't always have access to good banking products and services," reports Larry Lanie, president of Farm Bureau Bank. Because it is a federal charter, the bank is open to anyone. But it will be marketed primarily to the 3.1 million Farm Bureau members.

The bank is owned by holding company FB BanCorp, which includes 21 Farm Bureau state federations and 19 affiliated Farm Bureau insurance companies.

Operations for the bank are located in San Antonio, TX, where the Farm Bureau credit card portfolio and deposits are serviced. Farm Bureau Bank acquired these accounts.

Farm customers. Today, 75,000 to 80,000 customers are doing business with the bank. Lanie believes that most of those customers are farm families. The bank has $96 million in deposits and $72 million in credit card receivables.

All business is conducted online or through toll-free phone calls and the mail. Deposits may be mailed or electronically transferred.

For more information, contact Farm Bureau Bank, Dept. FIN, Box 33427, San Antonio, TX 78265, 800/492-3276.

Golden age of the buyer

Who you rely on for products and services may never be the same again.

This is the first story in a series about how distribution channels in agriculture are changing and what those changes will mean for you as a buyer.

For years farmers across the Midwest have purchased farm inputs such as seed, chemicals, fertilizer and machinery from their local dealers. And what was delivered to one farm looked much the same as what was delivered to the next. Same price tag. Same service. Same delivery truck. Same turnaround time.

That's changing.

In the past two years, agribusiness has begun to realize that so much sameness doesn't work anymore. It is rethinking the old product distribution channel used to bring products and services to market. Whereas in the past, product moved from manufacturer to distributor to dealer to customer, in the future it may go directly from the manufacturer to the customer or take a variety of other paths to reach the buyer's door.

Experts say the change in distribution channels should mean good things for buyers. In fact, they refer to this time as the "golden age of the buyer," in which customers decide what products and services they want, when they want them and at what cost.

"Those who are buying today will find that more and more sellers will be increasingly courting their business," says Dr. Mike Boehlje, Purdue agricultural economist who spoke on the topic of changing distribution channels at the annual agribusiness conference at Purdue University. "So it is going to be a real plus for those on the purchasing side."

Forces of change.

Four factors are driving the change in product distribution channels. The first is a fragmenting customer base. Farmers cannot be lumped into one market category anymore. Differences exist in their size of operation, type of enterprise, buying behavior and income.

For instance, since 1982, the number of farms with greater than $500,000 in gross sales has increased dramatically, according to a recent Purdue survey of 1,700 producers from across the U.S. "We are quickly moving to 90/10 agriculture, where 10% of the farmers account for 90% of the gross sales and therefore 90% of the input purchases in this industry," Boehlje says. That 10% probably will have product and services needs that are much different than those of farmers with a smaller number of acres.

A second factor driving new distribution channels is higher customer expectations. Farmers today have higher standards of performance as a result of the increasing scale of operations, market pressures and competitive product offerings, according to Dr. Jay Akridge, professor and associate director of Purdue's Center for Agricultural Business. For example, the same survey found that 20% of farmers shop for price, 18% shop for convenience, 15% buy based on product performance, and the balance want all those things.

"They want price, service, information and products that perform," Akridge says. "And they are willing to make trade-offs and pay for extra value if it delivers on their farm business. This group also will be quick to change suppliers if they are not getting the value they want."

A third factor is technology. One area is logistics technology to improve the transport of goods from one place to another. "Ten years ago, you would hear people talk about just-in-time inventory," says Dr. Frank Dooley, associate professor at Purdue's Center for Agricultural Business. "Today we hear about Global Positioning Systems, bar coding, which is almost standard practice everywhere, and supply chain management."

These systems will allow input supply firms to do a better job of managing inventories to ensure that product is delivered on time. For example, if a company transports seed from another sales region, the sales rep can use GPS to track when the truck will arrive and even give coordinates to thefarmer's field.Some chemical companies already are using a system of electroni c sensors and satellites to track product levels in bulk tanks. The sensors take a daily reading of the inventory and send the information to the supplier by way of satellite signals.

Technology also has improved communications. The development of the Internet, Intranet (Web pages for company use) and expanding bandwidths have improved the speed at which information can be communicated among customers, manufacturers and suppliers. "Just think. Four years ago, virtually no firms had a Web page. Now, 79% have them," says Dooley, referring to another recent Purdue survey of agribusiness professionals. Among farmers, Internet access has doubled in the last two years - from 13 to 29% - and the growth is expected to continue.

The fourth factor driving new distribution channels is increased competition among suppliers. The product performance gap is narrowing, meaning the product sold by one company is likely to perform about the same as that of another. At the same time, new players, like telemarketers and Internet companies, are entering the market offering you the opportunity to buy products directly from the manufacturer at a lower cost than what your retailer may be able to quote you.

All these forces are putting pressure on manufacturers and resellers to come up with new ways to get products and services to you better, faster and cheaper or else lose you to someone else.

Channel snapshots.

So what might the new product distribution channels look like? One channel, and perhaps the most visible one, is the Internet. With the advent of company Web sites, farmers can log on and order products direct from the manufacturer day or night with a click of a mouse and the touch of a few keystrokes without ever having to talk to the middleman.

Ag finance is becoming a common example of that, Boehlje says. "I can get housing loans now on e-commerce, I can communicate with my ag lender through the Internet, and increasingly I can obtain a loan with some lenders and have funds transferred to my account electronically," he says.

Other products are expected to follow if they haven't already. Of the agribusiness companies surveyed by Purdue, 5% are selling over the Internet today. Sixty-five percent say they will be selling over the Internet in three years, and 12% of the companies' dollar sales are expected to be Internet-generated three years from now.

Other emerging channels will be shaped according to whether you are buying products, services or information. In other words, the product might be delivered direct, the information might be delivered over the Internet, and the after-sales service might still be handled by the local retailer, according to Boehlje. "As an example of that, I might buy my automobile over the Internet, or a tractor from a dealer that is not in my locale," he says. "But when it comes to getting the repairs done, I typically and frequently will take it to my local dealer."

Boehlje is quick to point out that these emerging distribution channels will not necessarily replace the local dealer, but their role may change. "The retailer, in some cases, may be playing a critical role in product delivery and application of, for example, fertilizer. But in other cases, the dealer may simply be involved in doing the accounting and billing and the product moves directly to the consumer."

And although the Internet may be the biggest threat to dealers' traditional existence, it may also be their best tool to enhance their role. "We may actually find e-commerce being the mechanisms by which the local retailer does a better job of providing information to his customer base," Boehlje states.

Where do you fit?

Boehlje says these new channels will operate simultaneously alongside each other. And each channel will be used to serve different customers in a way that best meets their needs.

So how do you know which channel you will fit into? Ultimately, that decision will be up to the marketer and it will be based on a variety of factors such your farm size, type of enterprise, buying behavior and level of service required.

However, you can influence channel selection by continually informing your input suppliers of your wants and needs in terms of products, services and information, according to Boehlje. "Here are the kinds of things I would like from you as my fertilizer, seed, chemical or other supplier," Boehlje says. "Here's what I think would be useful or valuable to me."

Communicating those needs is not to imply that you will always get what you want, Boehlje adds.

But it will at least improve your chances.

At the same time, producers must be realistic in their expectations, especially when it comes to services. "What I'm suggesting is that producers are going to have to increasingly acknowledge that they may not get exactly what their neighbor gets," Boehlje says. "And because they are not getting exactly what their neighbor gets, it shouldn't surprise them that they are paying a different price than what their neighbor pays."

In the next issues of Farm Industry News, we will give you a more detailed look at the distribution channels that are taking shape in specific industry segments and their implications for you as a buyer.

Tips for tackling winter storage

Experts share their secrets for putting machinery away for the season.

Now that your fields are harvested and are ready for spring planting, it's time to prepare your machinery for winter storage/spring planting.

"I find the best time to thoroughly inspect our equipment and get it prepared for spring is right when we get everything put away," says Scott McPheeters, Team FIN member from Gothenburg, NE. "That way all the idiosyncrasies or problems are fresh in our minds; plus some parts take up to 6 weeks for delivery."

McPheeters has an extensive maintenance checklist system for practically everything on his farm.

He and his three full-time and four part-time mechanics adhere to it, religiously.

His computerized spreadsheets are broken down by type of machine (combine, tractor or implement), pickups and even household repairs. Because there are about 35 engines on the farm, he has a column just for antifreeze changes.

Here are some suggestions for your maintenance checklist from Harold Tucker, lubricants technical director, Phillips 66:

Overhaul, change oil and all filters and lubricate; drain and refill oil.

Observe used oil; this is a good time to get it analyzed.

Clean the engine compartment and outside of machine with a pressure washer; remove crop residue from all equipment.

Grease press wheels and clutch parts on planters and fittings on tractors and combines.

Remove batteries, clean contact points and reinstall batteries; apply a coating of grease onto terminals to prevent corrosion; keep batteries fully charged to prevent freezing.

Unless it's been thoroughly winterized, run each piece of equipment at low speed for up to _1/2 hr. periodically throughout the winter.

Remove rust and repaint equipment.

McPheeters says he even paints the exhaust stacks on his tractors each year. He adds that his regimen for maintaining and storing equipment is twofold: to keep machines in tip-top shape and for eventual resale value. "You get a reputation among fellow farmers on how you keep your equipment. I was about to buy a tractor at a sale recently, until I heard who owned it."

top 5 from the top 8

Seed companies relate their top hybrids for the 2000 corn crop.

Wondering what to buy for hybrids this spring? We went to the top eight seed corn companies in the U.S. (based on our reader surveys) and asked for each of their top five hybrids for 2000. Then we compiled the following descriptions of each company's hybrids. Maybe you'll find something new, or maybe this will confirm your choice.

A word of caution: Most companies expect to sell out of their top hybrids. Order soon if you want to lock in a choice. * Pioneer Hi-Bred International The 2000 lineup for Pioneer Hi-Bred includes these top five leaders in company sales volume, according to Kyle Whitaker, product and technology communications manager.

36R10 101-day maturity. 1998 introduction. A top-yielding hybrid, it produced a 9 bu./acre yield advantage in 3,433 side-by-side yield comparisons with competitors in same maturity, Whitaker reports. Superior late-season plant health, very good stalks and above-average mid-season brittle stalk resistance. New version in 2000: 36R11 with YieldGard.

35P12 104-day maturity. 1999 introduction. Recom-mended for highly productive fields, it produced a 7.9 bu./acre advantage in 3,605 comparisons. Very good early growth and staygreen. New version in 2000: 35P17 with LibertyLink gene.

34B23 108-day maturity. 1999 introduction. The hybrid produced 12.9 bu./acre more in 1,957 field comparisons. Recommended for reduced and no-till acres with its moderate gray leaf spot resistance. New versions in 2000: 34B25, high-oil TC Blend product; 34B28 with Clearfield trait; and 34B29 with LibertyLink gene.

33A14 113-day maturity. 1997 introduction. YieldGard. In 11,491 comparisons, the hybrid earned a 7.7 bu./acre advantage over competitors. Excellent staygreen and very good root lodging resistance.

33P67 114-day maturity. 1999 introduction. YieldGard. It yielded 16.4 bu./acre more than competitors in 1,798 comparisons. Recommended for moderate- to high-yield environments. Moderate gray leaf spot resistance, very good southern leaf blight resistance. New versions in 2000: 33P69 with LibertyLink gene, 33P71 with Clearfield trait.

For more information, contact Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., Dept. FIN, 7100 N.W. 62nd Ave., Johnston, IA 50131, 800/247-6803, ext. 6941.

* Dekalb Genetics Three new products and two recent hybrids make up the key hybrids in Dekalb's lineup, according to Joe Walsh, product manager. Dekalb starts a new numbering system for hybrids this year to accommodate new releases. Adding 50 to the first two numbers gives the relative maturity of the hybrid.

DKC 47-72 97-day maturity. 2000 introduction. YieldGard. It adapts to a wide range of soil types and tillage practices. Popular for corn following corn. Great drydown, stalk strength. Manage like DK477.

DKC 49-92 99-day maturity. 2000 introduction. YieldGard version of DK493, which is Dekalb's leadingvolume product. Drought tolerant. Good performance with all populations.

DKC 57-72 107-day maturity. 2000 introduction. YieldGard. Considered one of the highest-rated root products for Dekalb, according to Walsh. Excellent early season vigor, stalks. Manage like DK579.

DK 585 108-day maturity. 1998 introduction. Can be used in a wide range of conservation practices and all populations. "It yields right up there with full-season hybrids that are later maturity," Walsh adds. Good drydown, plant health.

DK 611 110-day maturity. 1999 introduction. A tolerance to gray leaf spot makes this a good choice for corn-on-corn. Yields tops in plots, Walsh says. Great drydown, good stalks and roots.

For more information, contact Dekalb Genetics, Dept. FIN, 800 N. Lindbergh Blvd., CS7K, St. Louis, MO 63167.

* Novartis Seeds Novartis offers some of its elite hybrids in both conventional and Bt lines, according to Marc Hennen, corn marketing manager.

N3030BT 95-day maturity. 1999 introduction. YieldGard. Excellent emergence and seedling vigor. High yielding for maturity zone. Drought tolerant, superior stalk strength. Responds well in heavy- or medium-texture soils.

N42-B7 100-day maturity. 2000 introduction. YieldGard, Clearfield. A versatile hybrid, it works well in various soil types and is exceptionally drought tolerant. Good late-season intactness and fast drydown.

N59-Q9 109-day maturity. 1997 introduction. A proven performer, this hybrid provides a consistent yield over various growing conditions, Hennen reports. Exhibits good stress tolerance and drydown.

N65-A1 111-day maturity. 2000 introduction. YieldGard. Responds to high fertility and management conditions with high yields in both grain and high-moisture corn. Good drought tolerance and stalks. Excellent ear flexibility.

N58-D1 108-day maturity. 2000 introduction. YieldGard. An excellent hybrid for continuous corn and conventional tillage, or reduced tillage after soybeans, Hennen says. Fast drydown and late-season intactness.

N70-D5 114-day maturity. 2000 introduction. Hennen suggests this hybrid as an option for non-Bt refuge acres with its strong performance, heavy test weight and high-quality grain. Superior drought tolerance, good staygreen, fast drydown, strong stalks.

For more information, contact Novartis Seeds Inc., Dept. FIN, Field Crops, NAFTA, Box 959, Minneapolis, MN 55440.

* Garst Seed Company and AgriPro Seeds Garst and AgriPro are expecting high demand for top hybrids. Demand may override supply on most of them, according to Gene Kassmeyer, corn product manager.

8830 95-day maturity. 1998 introduction. The hybrid yielded 2.5 bu./acre better in 730 head-to-head comparisons with competitors with similar maturity products. Excellent emergence and early vigor.

AP 9355BT 102-day maturity. 1999 introduction. YieldGard. The hybrid yielded 8.1 bu./acre more compared with competitors in 285 field tests. Outstanding plant health, moderate ear flex.

8590 106-day maturity. 1999 limited introduction. From 826 comparisons, it yielded 3.1 bu./acre better than competitors. Medium-tall hybrid, very fast drydown, good stress tolerance. New 2000 version: 8590IT with Clearfield.

AP 9565 111-day maturity. 1997 introduction. It outperformed competitors by 5.8 bu./acre in 625 comparisons with competitors in 1999. Best for highly productive soils.

8464 111-day maturity. 1998 introduction. "We sell this about anywhere in this maturity," Kassmeyer says. "It is a solid performer with 8.1 bu./acre better than competitors in 2,383 comparisons." Moderate ear flex, good resistance to gray leaf spot.

For more information, contact Garst Seed Company, Dept. FIN, 2369 330th St., Slater, IA 50244, 888/464-2778. Contact AgriPro Seed Company, Dept. FIN, Box 2962, Shawnee Mission, KS 66201, 877/247-4776.

* Asgrow Two new hybrids and three recent ones rank in Asgrow's lineup of top hybrids, according to Trent Leopold, Asgrow brand manager.

RX 485RR/YG 101-day maturity. 2000 introduction. YieldGard. Roundup Ready. The key strength with this hybrid is the stacked traits in a top-producing hybrid. Excellent emergence and early growth. Ideal for conservation tillage applications.

RX489RR 101-day maturity. 2000 introduction. Roundup Ready. Product has excellent yield with vigor in roots, making it fit well with conservation tillage practices. Good drought tolerance and greensnap tolerance. Manage like RX488.

RX601/YG 105-day maturity. YieldGard. Good adaptation across the Corn Belt and a nice fit for conservation tillage. Strong emergence, stalks and roots. Good stress tolerance.

RX730/YG 111-day maturity. YieldGard. Another high-yielding hybrid with wide use across the Corn Belt in many soil types. Good stalks.

RX738 111-day maturity. 1999 introduction. This hybrid has a great test weight and grain quality. Good yield performer across many environments.

For more information, contact Asgrow, Dept. FIN, 800 N. Lindbergh Blvd., CS7K, St. Louis, MO 63167, 888/827-4769.

* Cargill Cargill offers a full line of hybrids in all maturities, starting from 80 days to 116 days, according to Mark Winkle, trait product manager. Here is a look at the company's top hybrids.

1877 80- to 82-day maturity. 1996 introduction. It provides excellent yield performance across different environmental conditions. Flowers early for maturity zone. High test weight.

3677 98- to 100-day maturity. 1995 introduction. One of Cargill's highest-selling hybrids, it handles many growing conditions from high-yield environments to stress situations. Excellent stalk strength and late-season plant health. New Clearfield, LibertyLink and YieldGard Bt versions available.

4111 99- to 101-day maturity. 1997 introduction. It combines top-end yields with an excellent agronomic package, Winkle reports. Strong early vigor and late-season plant and health attributes. YieldGard and LibertyLink trait options available.

6431 IMI 108- to 110-day maturity. 1998 introduction. Clearfield. Since its introduction, it has become a very high-yielding and popular hybrid for Cargill. Flowers early for its maturity with good drydown. YieldGard and LibertyLink versions available.

6888 109- to 111-day maturity. 1996 introduction. Cargill's top-selling hybrid, it is a white cob, yellow grain that provides excellent grain quality. Excellent roots, stalks and late-season plant health. Superb greensnap tolerance. Available in a YieldGard Bt version.

For more information, contact Cargill, Dept. FIN, 15407 McGinty Rd. W., Wayzata, MN 55391, 800/634-8941.

* Golden Harvest A lineup of proven performers was picked for Golden Harvest Seeds' selection of top hybrids, according to Jim Shearl, executive vice president.

H-8250 105-day maturity. 1999 introduction. Its late-flowering characteristics allow this hybrid to move south and compete with full-season hybrids for yield. Excellent drydown combined with high test weight.

H-2495 109-day maturity. A proven hybrid with outstanding performance last year, it performs consistently on many soil types. Above-average natural tolerance to European corn borer. Excellent cold tolerance and emergence; very good early-season vigor.

H-9229 112-day maturity. 1999 introduction. Calling it an exciting, high-yielding hybrid, Shearl says the hybrid is widely adapted. Shows a good natural tolerance to European corn borer and above-average test weight.

H-2547 112-day maturity. This hybrid combines extremely high yield potential with a solid agronomic package. Excellent late-season plant health. Fits all production practices.

H-9230Bt 113-day maturity. 1999 introduction. YieldGard. Good drought tolerance provides consistent performance across a range of environments and production practices. Good standability, ear retention and late-season plant health.

For more information, contact Golden Harvest, Dept. FIN, 220 N. Eldorado Rd., Suite E, Bloomington, IL 61704, 800/610-7333.

* Mycogen Several of Mycogen's top hybrids feature NatureGard, its Bt event for resistance to European corn borer, according to Tim Glenn, corn product manager.

2424 95-day maturity. 1999 introduction. NatureGard. It will be Mycogen's largest-selling hybrid in this maturity. Outstanding consistency across environments with high test weights. Outperformed comparable hybrids in its maturity by 4.3 bu/acre. Good early vigor. Good in minimum tillage.

2525 100-day maturity. 1999 introduction. NatureGard. Early flowering, it shows excellent emergence vigor and is very good in reduced or no-till situations. Tremendous top-end yields with a 5.6 bu./acre advantage in company trials with competitors. Very good drought stress tolerance.

2652 106-day maturity. 1999 introduction. A very popular hybrid, it is sold widely across the Corn Belt and south of I-80. Produced a yield advantage of 4 bu./acre in field tests at 270 locations against comparable hybrids. Good ear flexibility; does well on dryland and irrigated cropland.

2657 106-day maturity. 1999 introduction. NatureGard. It has demonstrated high yields and excellent yield stability across varying soil types and management practices. At 231 locations, it outperformed comparable hybrids by 5.2 bu./acre.

2799 IMI 114-day maturity. 1999 introduction. Clearfield. Mycogen's top-selling hybrid, it is a Bt conversion of the popular hybrid 7250. Outstanding yield stability across environments. Will fit any management situation. In 135 locations, outperformed comparable hybrids by 3.6 bu./acres.

For more information, contact Mycogen Seeds, Dept. FIN, 1340 Corporate Center Curve, Eagan, MN 55121, 800/380-7282.

Business of buying department

Growing up "Farm size will continue to increase ...for three reasons: to spread machine costs over more acreage...; the desire to achieve higher income levels; and concentration of land ownership in older hands." - Neil E. Harl, Iowa State University, in a speech to the Chicago Farmers group.

Tyson deal off Smithfield Foods' plan to purchase Tyson Foods' hog operations recently fell through. Smithfield had announced in September it would buy Tyson's The Pork Group for about $80 million. An announcement from Tyson about the failed deal reports that its hog operations did not fit Smithfield's expectations or long-term plans.

Smithfield's other big hog purchase is expected to go through, however. Early this year, Smithfield should take possession of Murphy Family Farms' hog operations with its 325,000 sows. Added to Smithfield's current hog operations with 350,000 sows, the company will account for 13% of the nation's hog slaughter.

Seeking a new Team FIN As we enter a new year, we've decided it's time to add more members to our elite group of farmers that we refer to as Team FIN. We involve members in many projects, from generating ideas and critiquing stories to supplying input buying expertise, walking farm show aisles and even testing some new products.

If you want to be a member of the new Team FIN, you should represent the farmer of the new millennium. You may be a mechanical wizard, a technology lover, a large crop or livestock guru, a contract crop grower, a farm manager or crop consultant, or even all of the above. You are honest, trustworthy, open-minded and objective, and you combine a passion to succeed with the skills to make it happen.

Quickly, send us a letter and/or resume describing your farming experience and operation, and your specific skills and interests. You can e-mail it to FIN@Intertec.com or mail it to Farm Industry News, Edit. Dept., 7900 International Dr., Suite 300, Minneapolis, MN 55425. Application deadline is February 15, 2000.

Monsanto, Pharmacia & Upjohn to merge Monsanto Company and Pharmacia & Upjohn an-nounced before the holidays a planned merger-of-equals transaction that surprised industry watchers. The merger will create a combined company, still unnamed, that has $17 billion in 1999 sales and a market capitalization of more than $50 billion. Monsanto reported it expects about 20% of the agricultural business to be offered in an initial public offering (IPO). The ag business will then be a separate legal entity with a stand-alone board of directors and its own publically traded stock after the IPO is completed.

Headquarters for the new company will be in Peapack, NJ. Current CEO of Pharmacia & Upjohn Fred Hassan will be president and CEO of the new company. Monsanto Chairman and CEO Robert Shapiro will become a nonexecutive chairman for 18 months.

Lawsuits...lawsuits...lawsuits On November 23, Pioneer Hi-Bred International re-ceived a broad patent to a method for making transgenic corn.

Pioneer developed the system for corn transformation using the "gene-gun" technology. But rights to products derived from bombardment-mediated transformation - including insect and herbicide-resistant hybrids and inbreds on the market today - are in dispute.

That same day, Pioneer filed a lawsuit against Monsanto and Novartis for infringing this patent, contending that their seed divisions are wrongly making and selling corn plants modified by this gene-gun method. The suit asks a judge to stop the companies from using the method and to award damages based on reasonable royalties on sales.

Because this gene-gun technology has been widely used across the industry to develop many biotech hybrids, the big questions are, How far will this suit go, and what price will farmers pay?

Monsanto also faces a headache from a class-action lawsuit, which charges that the company runs an international cartel to control the world's market of corn and soybean seed. It also accuses the company of failing to thoroughly test bioengineered products for safety.

Well-known activist Jeremy Rifkin and a coalition of environmental groups including Greenpeace initiated the lawsuit on behalf of six corn and soybean farmers from Indiana, Iowa and France.

Rifkin reportedly hired a "dream team" of lawyers to handle it. The team includes David Boies, who led the Justice Department's prosecution of Microsoft, and Michael D. Hausfeld, the Washington lawyer who represented Alaskan natives on the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

The lawsuit says Monsanto has tried to gain control over the corn and soybean seed markets since 1996. It states the company conspired with other seed companies to inflate prices and tech fees.

Monsanto responded to the lawsuit, stating it is based on unfounded claims by "veteran antagonists." A company official says the company is confident the suit will be dismissed.

EPA actions in question A study by Harvard University shows that the EPA's proposal to regulate several classes of pesticides will do more harm to public health than good. The Harvard analysis reports that EPA's attempt to limit the use of certain compounds including all organophosphate and carbamate pesticides could cause 1,000 premature deaths of Americans each year. The deaths are attributed to a decrease in disposable income and lower intakes of nutrients related to a ban on the two pesticide classes.

"It is impossible to link consumer exposure [from the two groups of pesticides] to any specific harm," the Harvard analysis states. "Any benefit that might come from preventing farmers from using these products will be partially or totally offset by risks induced by [their] ban." EPA has targeted these two classes of pesticides in a review under the Food Quality Protection Act. The American Farm Bureau Federation supported the Harvard study.

Lawsuits ended An agreement between Novartis Seeds and Mon-santo Company along with its seed unit Dekalb Genetics Corporation settles all pending lawsuits between them. The legal actions involve property rights regarding Bt corn, specifically Novartis NK Brand YieldGard corn and Novartis NK Brand Knockout corn.

Novartis secures a royalty-bearing license for future sales of Bt corn and for glufosinate resistance in corn. The company also agrees to pay the license for past sales of NK Brand Knockout corn.

The agreement ends the patent infringement lawsuits of Monsanto against Novartis; Dekalb against Novartis; and Novartis against Monsanto and Dekalb; and the mutual breach of contract lawsuits between Novartis and Monsanto.

Garst still Advanta The recent AstraZeneca and Novartis merger does not include Garst Seed Company. Instead, Garst, AgriPro Seeds, AgriPro Wheat, Interstate Seed Company and PSA Genetics are still members of the Advanta group of companies.

Survey says DECREASED CHEMICAL USE 19% of farmers who planted Bt corn in 1997 decreased their insecticide use. 26% of farmers who planted Bt corn in 1998 decreased their insecticide use. (Study conducted by Marlin Rice, Iowa State University entomologist, in conjunction with entomologists from Nebraska, Minnesota, Kansas, Illinois and Pennsylvania)

Finding humor in mergers We recently received this e-mail from a colleague who found some humor in today's big-business merger mania:

Hale Business Systems, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Fuller Brush, and W.R. Grace Company merge to become Hale Mary Fuller Grace.

Polygram Records, Warner Brothers, and Keebler Crackers become Polly-Warner-Cracker.

3M and Goodyear become MMMGood.

John Deere and Abitibi-Price become Deere Abi.

Honeywell, Imasco, and Home Oil become Honey I'm Home.

Zippo Manufacturing, Audi Motors, Dofasco, and Dakota Mining become Zip Audi Do Da.

Denison Mines, and Alliance & Metal Mining become MineAll Mine.

Federal Express and UPS become FED UP.

Xerox and Wurlitzer merge and begin manufacturing reproductive organs.

Fairchild Electronics and Honeywell Computers become Fairwell Honeychild.

3M, J.C. Penney and the Canadian Opera Company become 3 Penney Opera.

Grey Poupon and Dockers Pants become Poupon Pants.

Knott's Berry Farm and National Organization for Women become Knott NOW!

Aiming at niches

New Holland offers new mid-range tractors and telehandlers.

Recently New Holland un-veiled its plans to take a bite out of two markets: 90- to 140-hp tractors and telehandlers.

TM tractors. The company is introducing a brand-new series of 92 to 135 PTO hp tractors, called the TM series, to compete with the John Deere 7000 Ten. This mid-range category of tractors, which replaces New Holland's Gemini 60 series, is designed to fill a hole that existed between the 70- to 90-hp and the 145- to 200-hp ranges, according to Paul Trella, product manager for ag tractors.

"The industry segment between 90 and 140 PTO hp has remained strong and sees growth," Trella says. "The 60 series tried to fill that niche, but the expectations of customers in this buying category are changing. They want performance and comfort."

The new TM series will offer several key features that the 60 series did not. First, they are available with a SuperSteer axle, a feature present in New Holland's Genesis tractors, which allows for a 30% shorter turning radius than that offered by the 60 series. Not only do the tire and wheel turn when you move the steering wheel but the axle pivots, too, providing a turning diameter of 22_1/2 ft. (with 14.9R28 tires at a 60-in. setting). The company claims that this ability eliminates lightbulb-shaped turns at the end of rows and replaces them with U-turns to save you time in positioning implements.

Another key feature of these tractors is their suspension system. The front axle floats 4 in. up or down to keep tires on the ground and the operator comfortable. The cab also is suspended with back springs and shock absorbers to take the jarring from the drivetrain out of the operator seat, allowing you to drive faster while still maintaining control.

A third new feature is a full Powershift transmission on the two largest models, the TM150 and the TM165. It allows you to smoothly shift from 1st through 18th gear with a touch of a button regardless of draft load and without the risk of stalling. Without it you would need to move a lever between the three major ranges. A patented torque sensing system on the tractor flywheel looks at engine speed, engine load and ground speed to determine when to switch gears.

The TM series features new cab comforts as well. "Farmers are getting out of their pickups and stepping into the tractor cab and want to see some of the same features there," Trella says. For example, an air ride seat, the same technology used in luxury buses, comes standard to help ensure a smooth ride. Two doors provide access from either side of the cab. Other cab features include extendable mirrors, steerable fenders that turn at a different radius than the wheel so you don't have to remove them to make a tight turn, cup holders, storage space and an adjustable heating and cooling system.

Suggested list price: $60,000 to $91,000 base.

Telehandlers. Telehandlers, a grown-up version of the skid-steer loader, are common fixtures on construction sites. But New Holland thinks they have high market potential in agriculture and could replace many tractors with loaders currently used on farms.

"This could be a 10,000-unit market in 10 years for the ag market," says Gregory Emmanuel, product marketing manager for telehandlers. Currently, 13,500 units are sold in the United States, but nearly all are sold to the construction industry.

In Europe, half of all telehandlers sold go to agricultural applications. "What farmers realize in Europe is that they can do a lot more in less time to feed cows, clean pens, build a bunker silo and pull silage out of the feed bunker," Emmanuel says. "It increases their productivity, and that is what this machine is about."

Emmanuel says that, compared with a tractor, telehandlers have * More durability, with a heavier front axle and one-piece frame * Higher lift capacity: 6,000 versus 4,000 lbs. * Longer reach (12 versus 3 ft.) and higher lift height due to a variable versus fixed radius * Better visibility: A glass roof in the cab allows you to see all the way up to the load. * Larger bucket: 13/4 versus 1 cu. yd. or less * Four-wheel versus two-wheel steering for quicker turning * More versatility when changing attachments. A quick coupler system in front of the unit is operated hydraulically so you can switch among 12 attachments without getting out of the cab.

New Holland introduced its telehandler, the LM430, a year ago after signing an agreement with Manitou, Europe's leading telehandler manufacturer, to build one. Suggested list price: $75,000, depending on options.

Competitors in this market include JCB, Gehl and Caterpillar. Em-manuel says New Holland has an advantage over these companies because of its established distribution channels in agriculture. For more information, contact New Holland North America Inc., Dept. FIN, Box 1895, New Holland, PA 17557, 717/355-1371.

Later model machines grace dealer lots but there are deals to be found in any situation All used machines deserve a runthrough before making a purchase decision
<p>Later model machines grace dealer lots, but there are deals to be found in any situation. All used machines deserve a run-through before making a purchase decision.</p>

9 tips for buying used

A tractor inspector gives tips for buying a used tractor.

Barry White has been inspecting machinery for his auction house for about 11 years. He figures he inspects up to 700 pieces a year, mostly tractors. Here are his pointers to follow when inspecting a used tractor.

Fire or flood damage. Machine will likely be repainted. All seals and rubbers around the cab, engine, rear differential, etc. will have been replaced if fire damaged.

Wear and tear. Cab and tire wear should coincide with tractor hours. Low hours will show little wear on the foot pedals, carpet and mats around the pedals; age or newness of tires should reflect hours.

Tire kicking. If the remaining tread depth is worn down to half its original lug depth, the tire may not transfer all of the tractor's power to the ground; watch for uneven wear. If the serial number is ground off, it's a manufacturer's second.

Steering. Move the steering wheel back and forth with some force. It should feel right. While driving, turn a corner to be sure the differential locks into place.

Look for leaks. Streaks of oil across tires and hubs may mean a defective shaft seal; check hydraulics for leaks.

Battery. Watch for low water level, green deposits on poles or a moist layer of dirt on top. Damaged cables and defective or poorly adjusted lights can mean the tractor was treated rough.

Inspect the engine. Check the O-rings on the crankshaft. A cold engine should pick up speed right away. Black smoke billowing from a diesel on start-up is okay. If it doesn't clear, or if it's anything but black, there's an engine problem. Check the engine's ventilation by closing the end of the pipe with a piece of paper or your palm to collect any oil that blows out.

Take out the dipstick. Oil will indicate timely fills. Dark black or a burnt smell suggests oil was not changed at the proper intervals. A gray tinge or tiny water bubbles on the dipstick suggest that water has mixed with the oil. If the oil spits more than usual when the dipstick is pulled out, the rings are probably bad and oil has gotten in the oil pan: The engine will possibly need an overhaul.

Oil film in the radiator and antifreeze indicates problems.

Swivel pin and hitches. Check the 4-wd swivel pin at the pivot point. The wear should coincide with tractor hours. Look closely at the hitch hole. An oblong hole means high hours, as can a rebuilt or replaced hitch.

Merging red and blue

Here's what the New Holland and Case merger will mean for customers.

Chicago. Wednesday, November 17. 1:30 p.m. Steve Lamb, president and COO of Case Corporation, stands behind a podium. To his left, seated in rows, are a dozen men in dark suits. All are there to field questions about the creation of CNH - the new company formed by the merger of Case and New Holland - and its implications for farmers and shareholders.

"Everyone is wondering how the movie will end on day one," Lamb says.

What they did. In May of last year, New Holland stated its intent to buy Case. By November, all regulatory agencies had okayed the deal with a few stipulations. They require New Holland to sell its Versatile 4-wd tractor line and Genesis 2-wd tractor line and Case to sell its ownership interest in its joint venture with AGCO Corporation, which produces its hay and forage line. The companies agreed to the stipulations, and final papers were signed on November 12.

Why they did it. Both companies had complementary product lines and markets. For example, New Holland is strong in low-horsepower tractors, whereas Case is strong in high-horsepower tractors. Case is better known to large cash grain farmers in the heartland, whereas New Holland is popular with livestock producers in the Northeast and Southeast.

The combined companies now hold the number-one position in tractors and combines built around the world. What's more, Lamb figures that, by combining efforts, the company will save $400 to $500 million annually after three to four years. Those savings will come from four buckets, he says.

Purchasing and logistics. CNH will be able to coordinate logistics, reduce the overall number of parts used and buy more of the same parts to achieve economies of scale.

Research and development. The company will pool engineering expertise, processes, parts and technology across product lines - an engineering model called a "common platform design."

Selling. There will be cross selling of some product lines such as specialty equipment to make more efficient use of existing distribution channels.

Industrial restructuring. The number of both companies' major manufacturing plants, which total 45 worldwide to date, will be reduced.

What it all means for you. Both brands will remain intact and sold by their respective dealers. "The amount of brand loyalty we have in the market is strong," Lamb says. "So we will continue to give access to preferred brands."

Products developed in the future will maintain that brand distinction. They will be labeled either as Case or New Holland, not CNH. How-ever, because the products will be designed and manufactured on a common platform, up to 70% of the parts in two given pieces of equipment could be the same, including, for instance, engine components, axles, frames, valves, valve switches, mirrors or steps. This concept was borrowed from the automotive industry. "For example, the new Lincoln Continental and Jaguar share 40% of the same part numbers," Lamb says. "But if you are a Jaguar customer, you will recognize it as a Jaguar, and if you are a Lincoln Continental customer, you will recognize it as a Lincoln Continental."

Parts that are known to customers as making each brand unique will remain different. These include components such as engines, transmissions, steering and comfort features.

The amount of differentiation will depend on the product, according to Leopold Plattner, president of global business for Case IH. "For example, with a plow, little differentiation is required, color perhaps," Plattner says. "A tractor is more emotional, and a higher degree of differentiation is needed."

Separate brand identities do not mean that a Case dealer will not sell New Holland products and vice versa. Already, some dealers have merged the lines to boost sales.

The question being asked now is who will buy Case's and New Holland's required spin-offs, a deal that must take place by April 4. The most plausible contenders are AGCO and Caterpillar.

Jeff Hawkinson, company public affairs representative with Caterpillar, says announcing any decision would be premature. "It would force us to speculate, and we don't do that," he states.

Bob Ratliff, chairman of AGCO, says the company will take a hard look at buying the hay and forage products Case must sell since AGCO already owns half that business. It also will look at New Holland's Versatile 4-wd and Genesis 2-wd lines. "But we have no knowledge of the financial conditions of those businesses, so it would be exploratory," Ratliff says. "And even if we knew, we don't know whether we would be a candidate."

CNH will be allowed to buy back and market these products to customers for a period of two years. Its dealers also will be able to source replacement parts.