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Beyond ‘Book Early’

July 28, 2012
By: Ben Potter, Social Media and Innovation Editor google + 
Beyond Book Early 2
Getting fresh, higher-quality seed is just one benefit for booking, paying and taking delivery early. Consider your on-farm storage needs in advance.  

A closer look at how to get the seed you want next year

Like any finite resource, seed price and availability are largely governed by the basic principle of supply and demand. Conventional wisdom likewise offers a basic solution—book early. But is it really that easy?

"It’s not as simple as book early," says DuPont Pioneer corn marketing manager Josh St. Peters. "You do need to be in touch early, though, to know exactly what’s available. Starting the conversation early is more important than booking early."

Choice can be exhilarating, or it can be debilitating. Seed reps try to keep the threat of

information overload at bay by learning as much as they can about their customers’ farms.

"Our customers know their farm better than anybody," St. Peters says. "We try to know it just as well." Choice is more than just a brand name and hybrid number, he adds.

"There’s a lot to pick from," St. Peters admits. "Make sure your sales rep knows what planter you’re using and what tillage system you have. Do you need flats or rounds? Bigger or smaller seed? All of these variables come into play." Armed with more details, seed reps can get you the seed you want, or better yet—the seed you need, he says.

Stick to your decisions. Buyer’s remorse is real, whether you’re buying a new truck, a new pair of boots or a new corn hybrid. Seed supply issues often happen when farmers book early and then keep changing their mind, says Myron Stine, vice president of sales and marketing for Stine Seed Company. "Booking early doesn’t do a lot," he says. "It helps, but what helps even more is paying early. And the ultimate is shipping early."

Stine says he sees and understands the fundamental conflict with booking seed. As commodity prices fluctuate, the decision to plant any given crop mix becomes much more—or much less—profitable. Consider this: As of July, corn had a year-to-date (YTD) high of $7.77 and a YTD low of $5.51, a swing of more than $2 per bushel. Soybeans were even more volatile, with a YTD high of $16.72 and a YTD low of $11.70.

Throw in an unseasonably warm winter and spring, and matters get even more complicated, Stine says. Winter production skyrocketed to match bigger spring planting intentions for both crops. "It turned everything into a guessing game," he says. The guesswork expands when farmers make double orders. Again, he says, this practice is understandable. "It’s a way for farmers to hedge their bets to get the seed they want." But this usually just results in what Stine refers to as "availability chaos."

"The No. 1 thing people can do is ship as soon as possible," he says. "The sooner that farmers ship, the more likely they are to get what they want."

Nine-tenths there. Joe Merschman, president and CEO of Merschman Seeds, agrees that early shipping is more important than early booking. "Possession is nine-tenths of the law," he says. "Take delivery in November if you can."

Early booking lets farmers get their hands on better-quality seed. Merschman says seed companies typically ship their best seed first. Plus, "seed that is bagged during warmer weather tends to have better quality than seed bagged in the middle of winter," he adds.

Merschman Seeds is one of several seed companies upgrading their inventory software to help make the seed purchase process more efficient and satisfying. The latest software improvements at Merschman Seeds allow the company to move to a real-time barcoded inventory management system.

"It’s kind of like shopping on Amazon," Merschman says. "Our dealers can see live inventory amounts. We see this as a sticking point for growers. If you book early and pay early and still don’t get what you want—that’s disheartening. This is more of a guarantee."

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - Seed Guide 2012

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