The skies were sunny and it was a good say for a drive to Washington Courthouse, Ohio, in mid-October. I met with Chris Jeffries and Dan Fox, owners of Seed Consultants, Inc. ranked as the fourth largest independent regional seed company in the country at the time.
Jeffries has Indiana ties, growing up in Wayne County, attending high school and taking ag classes there, and alter teaching for three successful years at Martinsville High School in central Indiana;. After that, he entered the seed business. In 1990, Jeffries and Dan Fox, a popular seed salesman and Ohio native, formed Seed Consultants, Inc.
I visited them to do a story about a regional seed company celebrating 20 years in the seed business and still surviving in a hostile environment. The extent of their testing and their volume of sales was impressive. So were the production facilities of one of the family-owned seed producers that produce seed for Seed Consultants, Inc.
Imagine my surprise when I learned less than three months later, and about a month after the story appeared in the December Indiana Prairie Farmer, that Seed Consultants, Inc., was acquired by Pioneer Hi-Bred.
However, important developments occurred during that interim period. Jockeying amongst major seed players in the industry produced different demands upon some smaller companies if they wanted to continue using their products. And in early December, a judge ruled in favor of Dow AgroSciences over Pioneer. The two had developed the Herculex trait jointly, and Dow believed Pioneer violated their agreement by allowing Pioneer's Proaccess seed partners, which included Seed Consultants, Inc., from using the trait in the manner it was being sold. While it's likely these companies will still sell Proaccess seed this spring, and that the major change coming from the lawsuit may be a new design for Proaccess bags in 2012, it lifted the specter of court fights that has plagued the seed industry for decades. Jeffries wants to produce and sell seed, not spend his time fighting legal battles.
Hence, Jeffries, who insisted he intended to remain an independent company during our interview, and who still insists he meant every word he said, reconsidered his options in December. Still, however, he insists he will continue to serve his customers just as he did before.
One rumor insinuated that Seed Consultants, Inc would now be limited only to Pioneer Genetics. Inside sources insist that's not the case, and reveal that they have meetings arranged with several foundation seed suppliers.
Jeffries issued this statement exclusively to Farm Progress Companies. "SCI is committed to putting the best possible genetics and traits in a Seed Consultants bag," he notes. "We have a commitment from PROaccess Genetics, allowing SCI that freedom."