Independent ag retailers link with large U.S. co-operative

Independent agricultural re-tailers on the Prairies have joined a large American farm co-operative.

It is another step in a consol-idation that began in 2010 when 17 members with about 75 retail outlets formed the Grow Group of Independents.

Two years ago the Grow Group joined United Suppliers from the United States, which is owned by about 600 dealers with 2,800 locations.

The deal brought Grow Group members greater purchasing power, distribution and agronomic support for their farmer-customers and made them more competitive in an industry that had seen some of its members sell to larger companies.

The new relationship spawned United Suppliers Canada, which now has about six percent of the regional market share and, through its nearly 50 owners and about 100 locations, 16 percent of the total independent, non-chain market.

At the time, the American side of the Iowa-based business was talking with an even bigger organization, — the agricultural giant Land O’Lakes. The farmer-owned co-op, based in Minnesota, has about 4,500 members.

United Suppliers in the U.S. eventually merged its farm inputs business with Land O’Lakes to create a new company, Winfield United.

This week, back in Saskatoon where Grow was formed, the prairie company officially becomes Winfield United Canada, a brand of Land O’Lakes.

“This really is adding a lot to the Canadian independents group,” said the head of the Canadian division.

“Obviously, not everything that Land O’ Lakes does in the U.S. is a fit for Western Canada, but there are some great resources at Winfield that will make the Canadian retailers very competitive, both with products and services,” said Greg McDonald, general manager of the Canadian operations.

“I will report to the U.S. operation. There will be a Canadian advisory board and they will work with Winfield United as well,” he said about the structure.

A variety of crop inputs and white-labelled pesticides, including technologies such as Interlock, a spray drift control product, are part of the deal.

Winfield’s R7 agronomy software will also be available. It provides producers with satellite imagery combined with field, crop and soil data. This tool supports a system called Answer Plot, which lets producers view local research and demonstrations or those from other locations and build that into their R7 projections.

McDonald said those types of services aren’t available to oper-ations if they are not part of a bigger organization.

Winfield United previously had operations in Central Canada and those will now be run out of Saskatoon.

“We offer them all that back-end support they didn’t have before,” he said.

That includes the Croplan Seed business in Canada.

Grow was founded by Andrukow Group Solutions in Alberta, Blair’s, G-Mac’s Ag Team, North Star Fertilizer and Wendland Ag Services in Saskatchewan and Double Diamond Farm Supply, Shur-Gro Farm Services and Munro Farm Supplies in Manitoba.

Others have since joined, including Cavalier Agrow, GJ Chemical, Parkland Fertilizers and Sturgeon Valley Fertilizers.

Weyburn Inland Terminal was a partner, but it was sold to Parrish and Heimbecker. Andrukow, Northstar and Wendland have since become part of Agrium’s Crop Production Services.

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