Jackson County Commissioners on Tuesday agree to do what they can to help local farmers convince a tractor and supply dealer to move into the county.
They tagged interim Administrator Wilanne Daniels as the official contact point for those involved in the endeavor, saying they agree that the county needs a dealership here. Jackson County Economic Development Committee Executive Director Greg Miller will also be involved in the endeavor.
That commitment came after four prominent local crop and livestock farmers — Mack Glass, Herman Laramore, Sonny Davis and Billy Bigham — along with Florida Farm Bureau representative Allen Scheffer, presented their dilemma.
Although Jackson County is a leading row-crop producer in the state, it has no local supplier of large-scale tractors and their supplies, and no service representative at home base. Garden tractors and small-scale farming operations have dealers here to count on they said, but the bigger machines they want are not here.
This means that they have to shop in Alabama or Georgia for the machines and associated supplies they need, and must pay service call charges of $375 to $500 or more just to get someone to their farms to service their tractors. Listing John Deere as the most popular brand used here, and indicating that might be their dealer of choice, the producers and livestock men said the price of having no dealer here is significant. They say it’s making their bottom line look dismal. They can’t compete for profits with their colleagues who have dealers and service teams nearby. The service calls, and the time they must spend out of the field themselves on trips to gather supplies from distant points are significant hindrances, they say.
They also say they need a fertilizer supplier here, noting the cost challenges they face because of the charges they face in getting those supplies here, and saying the lack may hurt smaller producers even more because they don’t need as much and can’t interest suppliers in traveling here to bring them what they need.
The farmers noted that dealers used to operate here and said consolidation trends helped spell the end of their presence here.
Today’s challenges in getting them back include permit costs, one of the representatives said. In one case, a dealership had almost committed to being here, they said, but eventually backed out having spent $85,000 in permitting and other up-front costs, before they ever put a shovel in the ground to build.
On that point, the farmers said, the county might be able to help by assisting in a search for an existing building that the dealer could occupy, rather than having to build.
The county has initiated an economic incentives package that could affect the permitting costs.