ReachOut: What Do You Need?

ReachOut: What Do You Need? from United Farmers Cooperative on Vimeo.

Mike Zwingman

Mike Zwingman

Over the past week, there’s been some buzz around our community about a comment made at a recent meeting: “Don’t get caught paying for crop inputs that you really don’t need.”  At first blush, it makes sense, but I can’t say that I actually agree with it in the end.  Need is a tricky word and focusing only on need will lead us to ignore other important considerations like benefit and value.  As businessmen and women, value is of particular importance to us and our bottom line, and when we make it the primary driver of our decisions, the actions that we take and the products that we choose begin to make more sense.

What inputs does a crop really need?  This question asks us to approach as pure minimalists.  Crops need only air, water, sunlight, and nutrients.  So if we treat our crops as such, all we need to do is plant the seeds and let nature do the rest.  Ta da!  But not really.  Because pure minimal input leads to pure minimal results.  And since minimal results don’t provide for us what we need, we add a few things to the mix in order to achieve the yield goals that support our livelihoods: we try to control pest pressure and add additional nutrients to our soils and provide our crops with precious supplemental water through irrigation.  Your crops don’t necessarily need these things.  Those corn plants will grow without those pesticides and that extra N and water.  And they will grow into straggly, little plants with thin dusty ears.   You’ll count those meager bushels at harvest, and realize then that you needed more.

The rub is this: to achieve the yield goals that you need to support your operation, your crops require inputs in addition to the minimum and those inputs cost.  It’s that cost that makes us look sideways at the inputs and question their necessity.  But if we questioned instead the value of our inputs, our view might start to change, because when we take a value standpoint, the benefits of some unnecessary inputs become clear.  Namely, they increase our yield and thus our profit, even when we adjust for their initial cost.

Ascend is a perfect example of this.  Your crops do not need Ascend in order to grow.  When you question its necessity, Ascend fails the test.  But.  Ascend has a proven history of bringing our growers an additional six bushels per acre.  That increase in yield has meant an additional 2.9 million dollars in revenue over cost to our growers.  When you question its value, Ascend has proven itself a worthy input in your fields and wallets.

Perhaps I’m a little offended by the comment creating such talk over coffee and diesel fumes this week.  You see, I spend my time at United Farmers Cooperative, like the rest of the good people that work here, finding solutions that fulfill our Mission which is, “To provide innovative products and services and information that grow stakeholder (your) value.”  It’s not an easy task and it takes a lot of dedication because value has a different face for each of you, our producer-owners, and there are literally thousands of products that theoretically might bring you value.  Nonetheless, helping you realize an extra five bushels per acre or delivering a two-to-one return on investment—regardless of situation and weather conditions—is what I and my colleagues promise to you every day.

Header1The bottom line though friends is this: at the end of the day, it’s your operation.  Only you can decide the risks that you are willing to take and the philosophy that guides your decision making.  I do hope that you’ll share your philosophy with us though, your willingness to take risks, your goals and hopes and dreams and aspirations, so that we can assist you in their execution and achievement.  We promise to create value for you and your openness allows us to best deliver on that promise.

At UFC, we have the need to be greater.  Value is a proposition, not a concept.  Decide what and who delivers you value every day.