The fertilizer and chemical dealers and the people who work for them weren't too sure about Mike Boehlje's message delivered at the annual Indiana Certified Crop Advisers Conference before Christmas.
The Purdue University Extension ag economist predicted farmers who had been making big profit margins would find that they had to get aggressive to hold down expenses with tighter margins in 2014. He implied they might be more aggressive about price, buying from the low-cost supplier. Loyalty might take a back seat again.
One agronomist with an eastern Indiana firm quipped that "They've already whittled us down when things were good. There isn't much more to give."
Others believe farmers will still want the service that certain dealerships provide. Andy Like, Indiana Certified Crop Adviser of the Year, is co-owner of Daylight Farm Supply near Evansville. Their bread and butter is supplying farmers with chemicals and liquid fertilizer. They don't handle dry fertilizer, and they don't sell seed. But what they also do is have a staff of trained people who can answer questions and come up with solutions, especially for situations related to weed control and crop fertility.
Looking back, Like says when Roundup Ready crops made glyphosate the cheap alternative, farmers didn't need as much service, or so they thought. Now the pendulum has come full circle with resistant weeds requiring residual herbicides and lots of advice again.
Like says in his service area in southwest Indiana, farmers have been battling resistant marestail, waterhemp and even Palmer amaranth for five years. One of the biggest parts of his job is to provide recommendations to clients on how to best handle these weeds, and then to show up in the field to see what works and what doesn't. His customers expect it, and they know they will get the best recommendation Like can give based on what he's seen and learned about various products.
On the one hand, there may be people who go Boehlje's route and buy the cheapest price no matter what. On the other hand, with resistant weeds increasing their foothold in Indiana, there may be others who want to stay with people who understand their needs and whom they trust, whether they are the absolute lowest cost provider or not.