As farm implement dealerships grow and consolidate, farmers are beginning to wonder what's in it for them.
At Canada's Farm Progress Show here last week, Grainews sat down with Jim Wood, vice-president for agriculture for the largest dealership network of them all: Rocky Mountain Equipment.
Publicly-traded RME operates 39 Case IH, Case Construction and New Holland dealerships across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
As Prairie farms expand, Wood says, farmers see the benefits of growth and are more willing to do business with larger corporations. "They're doing what we're doing."
Wood believes farmers benefit from dealing with the large network. Rocky Mountain shares people and information among its 39 dealerships. Technicians exchange tips about machinery repairs, which he says leads to quicker fixes for farmers at every location.
Technicians also move within the network, to where they're needed most. During harvest, Wood says, "We move technicians from the south to the north during the season."
Farmers in the market for used equipment benefit from more choice when they're doing business with a large network. Instead of choosing from the handful of machines on the local dealer's lot, Rocky Mountain customers have access to used machines across the Prairies.
Farmers dealing with a larger network may also benefit from more access to training opportunities, such as day-long combine clinics for new owners.
But will larger dealers mean higher prices for farmers?" Wood says the size of the network leads to more consistent pricing. "We're able to keep the values in line."
How big is too big?
Most of Rocky Mountain's locations are in Alberta, where there are only a few independent dealers left. While Rocky Mountain has a smaller market share in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, Wood says, "we're definitely still in acquisition mode."
For RME, adding more dealerships means maintaining its relationship with Case IH and finding independent dealers willing to sell.
Wood says RME has a green light from Case to go ahead and expand further. "They like us, they like what we do," he says.
Will Rocky Mountain one day be the only Case IH dealer on the Prairies?
In Alberta, Wood says, that could "probably" happen. In Saskatchewan, he says, "it's going to take some time."
Young's Equipment, a privately-held Regina company with seven locations, remains the largest Case IH dealer network in Saskatchewan.
Wood is less interested in acquisitions east of Manitoba, where the machines and crops are different from the conditions the company's technicians have trained for.
"We'd be better off going south of the border," Wood says. "We definitely want to be where the producers are."