We like the famed Wayne Gretzky quote: “Skate to where the puck is going, not where it’s been.” Through our publications, events and research, we like the challenge of helping you identify where the puck may be headed.
After our Precision Farming Dealer Summit last month in Indianapolis, I was set to dive into the distribution side of autonomous farm equipment. There were many cloud-pushing conversations that fed a personal obsession about who will bring this technology to the farm, and who’ll be stuck on the sidelines.
After the 27th Annual National No-Tillage Conference (commencing hours later in the same hotel), I’m changing course for this month’s column to another “puck-seeking” topic ... Cover crops.
The editors on our grower-facing titles (Farm Innovations, No-Till Farmer and Strip-Till Farmer) have reported on cover crop practices for years, and the growers No-Till Farmer (NTF) attracts are leaders in cover crop adoption. In additions to NTF surveys that indicate 81% adoption, more than half of the year’s top 10 most-viewed articles related to cover crops.
So we’ve been encouraged to dive deeper into this fast-spreading area and build a clearinghouse for farmer-to-farmer sharing. Phase 1 of our plan was announced in Indy. The reaction was stronger than anticipated. We’re hearing a need to draw in the entire ag ecosystem — including your vital role in the chain — to fill gaps in knowledge, shore up the “wild west,” and quickly help everyone figure out how to make the practice work in local conditions.
The time has come. The front page of the Jan. 19 Wall Street Journal keeps ag (growers and livestock producers) as the target for America’s groundwater woes. It’s no longer only about the Chesapeake Bay, Mississippi Delta or Great Lakes, nor is the pressure only from regulators and townsfolk. Food producers like General Mills are joining in, too.
Extolled from every corner, cover cropping is cited as the most practical solution to nutrient runoff. Farmers employing cover crops can also substitute purchased inputs. An Indiana grower’s analysis showed a $69/acre benefit on his farm; a 266% ROI. Cover crop acreage has been growing 15% per year. The Iowa Ag Alliance is calling for 15-fold increase in the Hawkeye state alone.
What’s the point for dealers? Prepare to answer questions about the best ways of seeding and killing, which is being done with equipment you’re already peddling today. And it won’t hurt to find which seed mixes your most experienced farmers are using.
Previous rants about helping the farmer in ways beyond the machinery can get shrugged off. “Our business is to sell and service iron,” some say. But knowledge always adds value, right?
It reminds me of the time I asked a salesman why he encouraged a customer to spend limited dollars elsewhere during a market share fight. His answer was simple, strong and memorable. “Because it’ll be good for their business.” He was playing the long-game, figuring out that efficiency in another area for the customer would lead to better sales opportunities.
As with any change, you must decide to participate. If so, here are two items to share:
1. We devoted one-third of our 100-page January 2019 Farm Innovations to a first-ever “Operational Action Guide to Making Cover Crops Pay” that was mailed to high-income farmers in your area. We’ll post this content on CoverCropStrategies.com so you can study up as well.
2. We green-lighted an Online CoverCropSummit.com on March 20-21. You and your customers can tune into these cover crop presentations and Q&A for FREE, thanks to 6 sponsors. Hope you’ll join us.
P.S. As always, email me what you and your customers need most from our content team in 2019. We’ll bring our best for you.