Challenges facing the seed industry were the topic of discussion at Tuesday morning’s general session at the 130th ASTA annual meeting. The state of agribusiness panel was composed of Ross Harvey from Ad Farm, Blake Sieker managing partner at The Context Network and Kevin Ferguson farm management extension area specialist with the University of Tennessee. The panel was moderated by Lowell Catlett, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Home Economics at New Mexico State University.
Harvey opened the panel by discussing issues facing seed companies related to marketing. He mentioned three major areas that the seed industry must address related to marketing including the impact of producer consolidation, the human talent challenge and data driven decision making. Harvey also talked about marketing execution and management issues. “Use fewer tactics and don’t do some things and stay the course,” Harvey said. “Annual planning cycles don’t mean we have to reinvent our marketing initiatives every year.” According to Harvey, great marketing groups are disciplined, consistent, and are great at execution.
Listen to Harvey’s remarks here: Ross Harvey
The focus of Sieker’s comments was the status and future dynamics of corn and soybeans. He discussed the evolution of the business, industry trends and drivers and key characteristics that will keep the agriculture sector strong. According to Sieker those keys were “managing volatility, keeping pace with velocity and creating and providing value.”
Listen to Sieker’s comments here: Blake Sieker
Ferguson rounded out the panel by talking to attendees about the challenges that the American farmer faces in the changing industry. He discussed the change over that is occurring especially related to the transition of resources and management from one generation to the next. Additionally, Ferguson spoke on the challenge farms have to plan during profitable times. “Planning during the good times is often much more successful than planning during the bad times,” Ferguson said.
Listen to Ferguson’s presentation here: Kevin Ferguson
I also caught up with Ferguson after the panel and you can listen to my interview with him here: Ferguson Interview
Andy LaVigne, ASTA President and CEO, opened the ASTA 130th annual meeting by welcoming everyone to Nashville and taking a look at what attendees would hear about and discuss over the next two days. His opening remarks surrounded the evolution of the seed industry. LaVigne said the seed industry has a great opportunity to bring its message to the world, and it comes with the responsibility to feed the world.
LaVigne said participants could look forward to hearing more about advocating their industry and their strategic plan to do so. “You will see our focus in the future in our strategic plan is intellectual property,” LaVigne said. “It’s a responsibility to tell a story.”
He concluded his comments by saying, “Your association’s in great shape, and it’s because of you.”
Kelly Keithly was awarded the Honorary Lifetime Member award at the ASTA 130th annual meeting. Keithly is the president of Keithly-Williams Seeds (KWS). He has been involved in the seed business since he graduated from college. Keithly began the company in 1981 with his partner, Walt Williams, and two employees, and it has since expanded to 150 employees and in 18 western states and more than three-quarters of Mexico. KWS is now the largest seed dealer in North America with over $110 million in sales.
As a member of ASTA, Keithly has served as the 2008-2009 ASTA Chairman, a Director-at-Large and the Western Regional Vice President. He got involved with ASTA and had the opportunity to meet many of his suppliers and people in the industry. He said he also had the opportunity to learn about seed beyond vegetables. “The future for the organization is great because the staff and the people involved will continue to figure out how to meet those needs and changes and be a part of them,” Keithly said.
The current and incoming chairmen of the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) are pleased with the state of the industry and looking forward to a bright future.
Blake Curtis, Curtis & Curtis, has served as the chairman of the organization for the past year, which he says has gone by very quickly. “It has been a year of successes,” he said. “A number of things our past chairman put into effect we’ve been able to finish up this year – the strategic plan, intellectual property rights protection bureau – these are on-going projects that we’ve been able to bring to fruition and implement.”
Newly-elected chairman Craig Newman, president and CEO of AgReliant Genetics, is especially excited about the future of the industry and ASTA’s Future Seed Executives (FuSE) program. “I’m one of the mentors of one of the students and actually our company has already hired three of that group already,” he said.
Nashville has been a great venue in the heartland for the convention and both Craig and Blake are really looking forward to racing into the future for next year’s convention in Indianapolis.
The 130th American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) annual meeting opened today with a look into the future of the seed industry provided by Dr. Lowell Catlett, the Dean of the College of Agriculture and Home Economics at New Mexico State University. Catlett is a self-professed “weirdo” who provided his perspective on what it takes to look to the future with optimism and to be prepared to face the challenges of a growing world.
Catlett painted a picture of a world that is searching for ways to live longer and more fruitfully. He pointed to agriculture as a wonderful place to be for this development. “You want to have healthy people you can’t separate them from plants and animals and people,” Catlett said. He emphasized that agriculture has the plants and the animals and the people the world needs to stay healthy. Many times throughout his presentation, Catlett called today the “golden age of agriculture” and challenged those in the room to embrace it and keep moving forward.
The opening reception for the 130th American Seed Trade Association annual convention was held at the Grand Ole Opry and the entertainment was provided by an up-and-coming country artist who is now starting to get so popular that he is having less time for his job as a Syngenta Seeds sales rep. Not coincidentally, the reception was sponsored by Syngenta Seeds.
He grew up on a dairy farm, studied Ag Econ at Purdue, and worked as an intern with Golden Harvest prior to its purchase by Syngenta Seeds, but he always loved music. “I sang with the Purdue Varsity Glee Club and I just had a passion for country music,” which Levi said led him to put a band together and start singing at county fairs.
Last night was the first time that Levi, with his sister Lauren and brother-in-law, played the Grand Ole Opry but with songs like “Born to Farm” it probably won’t be the last! “Corn and beans, green and red machines, he was born to farm!”
The American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) is holding its 130th annual convention in Nashville, Tennessee this week and it goes without saying that the organization is facing issues today that members at that first meeting never even dreamed about.
“It’s really exciting when we look at 130 years of all the issues that impact the seed industry and how the industry has changed just over the last 10-15 years, let alone 130,” said ASTA President and CEO Andy LaVigne.
Today the big issues for the industry include dealing with new breeding methods, handling of seed treatment, and advocating for the seed industry on the local, national and even international level.
On the national front, Andy says they are kicking off a new seed industry advocacy program to help members become more involved in legislation and regulatory issues; and on the international front they are continuing to make progress on what is know as “The Accord” – an industry-wide effort to address the opportunities and the challenges associated with biotechnology patent expiration. “The whole program will be up and running by the end of this year and the opportunity for generic products to come into the marketplace or be stacked will be there,” said Andy, just in time for the first commercial biotech event to come off patent.
What better place is there than Nashville to celebrate 130 years of the seed industry’s strong roots while charting a path for the progress and innovation of our present and future?
I am heading to the 130th American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) annual meeting at the Gaylord Opryland and joining me will be AgWired summer intern Maggie Seiler. Among the events we will be covering for you at ASTA will be an address by nationally known agriculture economist Lowell Catlett, who will kick off the convention on Monday morning, followed on Tuesday by a State of Agribusiness panel discussion. There will be lots of focus on trends, challenges and opportunities, here and abroad, facing seed companies, large and small, over the coming year.
Breakout sessions will feature up-to-date reports on intellectual property rights, phytosanitary issues, food safety and seed stewardship and more. In addition, ASTA will also hold its annual elections and welcome in new leadership for the coming year.
Stay tuned to AgWired for full coverage and all audio and photos will also be posted on AgNewsWire.
It is time for National Ag Day and activities to celebrate it will kick off today in Washington, DC. National Ag Day is a project of the Agriculture Council of America.
My coverage of this year’s activities is being sponsored once again by the American Seed Trade Association along with BCS Communications. I talked with Andy Lavigne, President/CEO, ASTA, about this year’s theme of Generations Nourishing Generations. It evokes a great image of the family and most people need to know that it is mainly family farmers who are providing the food on their table. Hopefully we’ll be able to get that message out so people who are far removed from the farm will better understand it and not fall into the trap of believing very erroneous messages being spread by organizations and people with an agenda that is very detrimental to today’s sustainable farming practices.
Andy urges all agribusiness companies and farm organizations to support National Ag Day and the activities that take place each year.
Listen to my interview with Andy here: Interview with Andy Lavigne
March 19th is National Ag Day, a time when producers, agricultural associations, corporations, universities, government agencies and countless others across America gather to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by American agriculture.
As the world population soars, there is even greater demand for the food, fiber and renewable resources produced in the United States. Continue reading →
I spoke with Andy Lavigne, ASTA President/CEO, during Commodity Classic about this project which is very timely since growers are getting ready to get back out in the field. The guide will answer questions like, “How can I protect my treated seeds; What environmental factors should I consider when planting treated seeds; Am I following state and federal regulations for treated seed and What should I do with unused treated seed?”
Right now growers have an incentive to visit and sign up for notifications at www.seed-treatment-guide.com. Two lucky people will win a $500 cash prize!
Cindy spoke with Allen Wilson, Ag Marketing Manager for Harvest Masters, during the event. Allen shared how the two year long process to develop this software resulted in a brand new generation. Not simply a new addition to the previous version.
“The Mirus software that we just released works with our harvest data collection for research combines. It’s a Windows based platform. We have been using Windows mobile, but this is a Windows so it will be running on tablets, Windows XP and Windows 7 & 8. We are in that Windows environment. It is a next generation software to work with our hardware that we previously put out. This is a lot more flexible and easy to use. The operators are now able to see four different screens at one time about their system statues and yield levels. A lot more information available for the operators.”
“The feedback we got back from our beta testers, which were about 20 people that have run our previous software, all said it’s intuitive, it’s easy to use and they don’t have to go struggling through a bunch of different screen to find the information they need or settings to change. It’s a precision piece of equipment so they have to be monitoring it and watching to see if there are changes occurring. It was really over-whelming to hear these people that have used our software say we have made a step forward.”
You can find more information about the release of this new software on a previous post on sister site Precision Pays.
Last night we had our first snow of the season, if you can call it a snow. It was more like hurricane winds blowing around a few specks of white stuff. The roads aren’t bad but I don’t dare take my little car out for fear of getting blown off the road!
Our horse decided that cold triumphed over food and is standing in the barn out of the wind. And the two male cats that typically uphold their battle lines have decided to huddle together on a bale of hay.
I’ve already been asked three times by our son, “Do you want to farm with me?” Maybe I will have to take the afternoon off to do that because after all, “real” farmers don’t have the day off so why should pretend farmers?
And as much as I dislike snow, we need the moisture. I’m afraid the sled might not make it out of storage again this year.
One company that was generating some buzz at the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) CSS 2012 and Seed Expo was MS Technologies, which made a name for itself a few years ago by collaborating Bayer CropScience on LibertyLink soybeans.
At ASTA, MS Technologies was talking about two new projects – Enlist E3™ with Dow AgroSciences and another Bayer collaboration currently known by its working name of FG72. I had hoped to catch up with MS Technologies Brand Manager Lauren August at ASTA, but since I was unable to do so we did a phone interview last week about the collaboration innovations they have in the pipeline and you can hear more about it in this week’s ZimmCast.
In 1982, two friends named Roger Underwood and Jeff Becker started a little company that bore their names with a single product. Several acquisitions and 30 years later, Becker Underwood is a global leader in the development and commercialization of seed-applied biological products and is now part of the BASF Crop Protection family.
“It’s been quite a ride particularly over the last ten years,” said Peter Innes, who has been Chairman and CEO of Becker Underwood and now will be Global Senior Advisor to the BASF Crop Protection division with the acquisition. “We have a major strength in our technical expertise, in our innovation, we like to bring new and different products to the market.”
Peter says the acquisition will help bring those products to new markets, such as India and China. He talks about that and more in this interview from the ASTA 2012 CSS and Seed Expo last week: Interview with Peter Innes
Effective January 1, 2013, most businesses of Becker Underwood will join the newly established global business unit “Functional Crop Care” under BASF’s Crop Protection division, headed by Dr. Jürgen Huff, Senior Vice President. “With this new global business unit we want to offer farmers a complete and holistic portfolio consisting of seed treatment products, complemented by Becker Underwood’s biologicals portfolio,” said Jürgen. “In addition we’re going to add a part of the business which we call “Innovation Beyond Crop Protection” – projects and products aimed at water management and better nutrient management for plants.”
Jürgen has been with BASF since 1995 and was actually involved in leading a polymer laboratory when he joined the company. “We are very excited with the new Becker Underwood team to bring new great things to the market,” he said.
The acquisition of Becker Underwood by BASF brings together two market leaders in the areas of innovation, crop protection, seed and biological technology, which means a broader range of products for growers to increase yields.
BASF VP US Crop Protection Paul Rea says Becker Underwood technology is complementary to BASF’s existing product portfolio and raises the bar for plant health as a means of increasing yield. “Obviously we have a great foundation with Headline, Headline AMP and Priaxor,” Paul said at last week’s ASTA CSS 2012 and Seed Expo. “The addition of the Becker Underwood portfolio should allow us to look at combining technologies and push that limit even further by using traditional, biological and seed treatment technology to get more from each acre.”
BASF Canada Crop Protection Director Scott Kay says the acquisition of Becker Underwood is important for growers in North America. “It’s a great synergy because our pipelines do not overlap so it’s a brand new portfolio for us,” said Scott. “Whether it’s the inoculants or biologicals, they all have a place and it goes along with helping farmers get the most out of every acre and to manage risk throughout the season.”
The seed may be first, but bees are still important when it comes to agricultural production and Bayer CropScience was pleased to announce plans for a new North American Bee Care Center during last week’s American Seed Trade Association expo. The company plans to break ground in February 2013 on the center which will serve as a gathering place for researchers, bee experts, students and other visitors to meet regularly with leading Bayer scientists.
Bayer Seed Growth Lead Brad May says the Bayer Bee Care Center is dedicated to promoting and protecting bee health for everyone. “This bee health care center is to help talk to beekeepers,” he said. “We want to be able to look at the diseases and the varroa mite and everything about bee health because agriculture is our lives and bees are agriculture.”
Brad says they always have a lot to talk about at the ASTA 2012 CSS and Seed Expo. “Everything starts with the seed,” he said. “We have the seed, the seed growth products, application equipment that goes with the seed, colors and coatings, we’re just a strong supplier.”
Attendees at the expo this year showed a lot of interest in Poncho/VOTiVO seed treatment for insect and nematode protection and the On Demand™ application technology. Brad tells a story about one of his first users of the On Demand system who didn’t get to use it much himself because his 17-year-old daughter treated everything. “It’s all touch screen, you’re just moving 15 gallon kegs, it’s a closed system,” Brad related, adding that the new system led his client’s daughter to develop a new interest in agriculture!
We talk a lot in agriculture about feeding a growing world population but Syngenta and the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) brought that broad message home during this week’s CSS 2012 and Seed Expo in Chicago.
“We tend to think about hunger as being something that happens somewhere else, but it happens in our own backyard – it happens here in Chicago,” said David Morgan, Syngenta North America regional director. “We partnered here with ASTA at the event and we’re giving matching contributions to donations given for Chicago efforts on hunger relief.”
Syngenta was giving away backpacks at the Seed Expo, as well as some cool knit gloves with tech fingers (to operate touch screens) and collecting lots of donations. ASTA pledged to match donations up to $1500 and Syngenta matched up to $3000 – all going to support Nourish for Knowledge, a program of the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
*Post Update*Syngenta reports that they collected over $1600 during the Seed Expo, which was matched by $1600 from Syngenta and $1500 from ASTA – for a grand total donation of more than $4700 to help feed Chicago area children. What a great effort!
I had the chance to chat with David about why Syngenta is one of ASTA’s strategic partners and the products they have and are developing to help increase food security worldwide.
The American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) annual Corn & Sorghum and Soybean Seed Research Conference (CSS) and Seed Expo this week boasted a record 2,800 attendees and 150 exhibitors who were all excited about the future of the seed industry despite this year’s calamitous drought.
During the general session on Thursday, AgResource Company president Dan Basse looked at the year in review and gave his outlook for the future. As far as this year’s drought is concerned, Basse said the final analysis was better than expected. “We were just shocked at how the corn and soybean crops held together as well as they did,” he said. For example, we had record low pod counts as a result of the drought, however the pod weights were two standard deviations above the record. “US soybean yields ended up being 3.5 to 4 bushels an acre MORE than we expected and that’s largely due to the technology now being bred into seed,” said Basse.
Basse is concerned about what next year’s weather patterns may bring, especially in light of the fact that drought impacted Russia, Australia and portions of Latin America this year. He also commented on the lack of a five year farm bill and noted that the crop insurance policy that was part of the last farm bill really helped save farm income this year.
In collaboration with M.S. Technologies, Dow unveiled Enlist E3™ soybeans as the brand name for the industry’s first-ever, three-gene herbicide tolerant soybean to provide tolerance to 2,4-D product, glyphosate, and glufosinate. The technology was submitted for regulatory approval in August 2011 and is anticipated to be launched in 2015 pending U.S. and import country approvals.
“Enlist E3 soybeans will set the new standard for weed control and yield performance in soybeans,” said Lauren August, M.S. Technologies. “This first-ever three-gene stack event has been packaged in high-yielding elite germplasm from M.S. Technologies which, when combined, will allow growers to maximize per acre profits.”
I talked with Damon Palmer, Enlist weed control system commercial lead for Dow, at the ASTA Seed Expo. “It’s going to be really important that we maximize the tools that farmers have to control weeds and so those three herbicide tolerances will provide farmers flexibility and tools into the future to manage weeds,” he said. Enlist E3 soybeans will be brought to market in high-yielding varieties, widely available in multiple brands. “The business objective is to broadly license this throughout the industry,” said Damon, noting that they were able to meet with many companies interested in the technology at that ASTA 2012 Expo.
Damon says involvement in ASTA is important to Dow from both a business and policy perspective. “This is a high technology business and so it’s really important that we’re together and we can push forward policies that advance the seed industry,” he said.
CLF chairman of the board Jay Vroom says the report outlines the benefits of using pesticides for sustainable crop production.
“Precision seed protection, as part of an integrated pest management system and when combined responsibly with other crop protection products, makes it possible for U.S. farmers to grow more resilient crops that can withstand harsh climate conditions and provide consumers more healthy and nutritious food choices,” said Vroom. “CLF looks forward to the publication of this report in the spring and sharing important findings on the benefits of precision seed protection for modern agriculture.”