Industry offered advice for dealing with farmers

Dear input suppliers, grain buyers and equipment repair people — here’s what you can do to earn my respect and business. I realize I’m just a small fish in a very large lake, but I suspect that most of your other customers feel the same way.

First of all, don’t overpromise. You see this continually with grain sale contracts. All too often, the grain fails to move within the timeframe stipulated in the contract. Being a little late is understandable, but sometimes the delay can be months.

In times of rail service disruptions, delays may be unavoidable. Unfortunately, many of the delays seem to be caused by internal miscalculations.

When a delay is going to occur, communicate. Reach out to the producers involved and let them know the timeframe has been adjusted. Most of us will understand your predicament if you proactively explain the situation. Don’t wait for us to call you to see what’s happening.

The buyers who are good at keeping their delivery promises are usually the ones also good at communicating. Funny how that works.

Our area had a very welcome rain at the end of September, about two inches. However, one grain bin settled unevenly into the crushed rock base and had to be emptied before it tipped over.

The grain in the bin is contracted for delivery in the next couple months. I left a voice message for the buyer to see if there was any possibility of delivering some of the contract a bit early to get this bin emptied. I realized this was a longshot, but they didn’t even call back.

Here’s an example of overpromising, this time with an equipment dealership. A few days into harvest a major problem developed on one of our combine headers. I thought I had it fixed going into harvest, but I did not. It was going to need some major work and I called the dealership to see if it was something they could address quickly.

Yes, the service rep told me. They should be able to get at it in a day or two. So, I loaded the header onto a trailer and trucked it to the dealership. Several phone calls and about 10 days later I finally had the header back. The header sat in their yard for a long time before they even looked at it.

We were able to continue harvesting with other equipment, but I would probably have worked on the repairs myself if I’d known how long the dealership was going to take.

Don’t overpromise. Don’t say what the farmer wants to hear unless you can deliver.

If you’re a farm input supplier, provide honest advice. Some suppliers seem fixated on making sales. Whatever your situation, here’s a product you should be applying. Other suppliers will provide an honest assessment of whether they think the input is worthwhile. Those are the suppliers I’ll continue to do business with.

Independent advice from someone not looking to sell anything can certainly be valuable, but it’s heartening to know that the expertise at some farm input suppliers isn’t directed entirely at maximizing sales.

In summary, don’t overpromise, keep communicating even if the message is difficult, respond even if the answer is no and provide honest advice rather than trying to maximize sales. All of these points would seem to be common sense, but common sense isn’t as common as it should be.

Kevin Hursh is an agricultural journalist, consultant and farmer. He can be reached by e-mail at kevin@hursh.ca.

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