A recent study established 60% of Iowa farmers say fertilizer dealers should do more to help their clients address nutrient loss. Obviously, farmers are looking for information and they want their ag retailer’s help.
Even though retail agronomists admit they should be talking to farmers about conservation, they are not quite sure how to bring it up with their clients. They tell me they are uncomfortable with the topic and aren’t sure how their growers will react. The research bears that out. In a recent study by the Minnesota Freshwater Society, “crop advisers report being reluctant to introduce ideas about conservation into a conversation with a farmer unless that farmer has already expressed interest in participating in conservation.” Who is going to bring it up first, the farmer or the ag retailer?
This communication gap reminds me of the conversation I always expect to have with my doctor, but it never seems to happen. After turning 50, I decided I would get a physical every year. During these annual visits, I always anticipate that Doc will tell me I needed to lose 25 pounds. Year after year, the subject of my weight never comes up. Deep down I know, but I never bring it up. The doctor knows, but doesn’t bring it up. Neither one of us ever broaches the subject. Invariably upon leaving those checkups I rationalize to myself, “If my doctor doesn’t bring up my weight issue then it’s probably no big deal. After all, I rely on him for my health information.”
On the surface it sounds ridiculous. Why would two grown-ups be unwilling to discuss the elephant in the room (so to speak)? But this happens all of the time, when each party sidesteps a conversation, because it is just easier to avoid the subject rather than possibly offending someone. I guess the mentality is that the possibility of offending and losing a client is not worth the risk.
Possibly this is what ag retailers think. But wait. Farmers trust ag retailers and want their help. Ag retailers are in the ideal position to initiate the conservation discussion with farmers. They just need the right conversation-starter.
Recently, my company developed that conversation-starter; not only for soil erosion but also for nitrogen management. It’s what we refer to as “Tier 1” in our Sustainability Solution. Agren’s Tier 1 maps allow an agronomist to identify and prioritize fields that may be at risk and those that inherently are not. Because all fields are not created equal (yes, the 80/20 rule even applies to soil and nutrient loss in farming), our Tier 1 color-coded map layers allow the ag retailer to intuitively identify fields at risk for soil erosion and nutrient loss. Sharing a visual map with farmers arms the agronomist with just the right tool to start a conversation about improving productivity.