Some Farmers Shopping Online for Inputs, in Lieu of Local Co-Op

Jesse Newman and Jacob Bunge reported today at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “Brandon Sinclair spent $26,000 on herbicides for his corn and soybean fields last year, roughly half what he says he used to pay at his local co-operative.

“The savings came from a source many U.S. farmers have been slow to tap: the internet.

“Farmers have long made pilgrimages to farm stores and co-operatives to purchase seeds, fertilizer and weed and pest killers. Now, with a commodity glut pressuring crop prices and pushing farm incomes to an eight-year low, farmers are scouring the web for better deals on the products they use to grow their crops.”

Today’s article stated that, “The shift could upend a decades-old system built around small-town suppliers that also offer farming advice and sell services such as spraying for weeds. Mr. Sinclair says the math is simple: Using savings found online, the 31-year old Illinois farmer was able to spring for a helicopter to wrangle his herd of cattle. Now he is urging his neighbors to shop online, too.”

The Journal writers explained that, “Farmer proponents of online shopping say they have discovered local prices for crop supplies can vary widely across the country. Weedkillers can cost up to four times as much in one part of the country as in another, according to Farmers Business Network Inc., a San Francisco-area startup backed by Google Ventures.”

Graph from The Wall Street Journal.

Newman and Bunge added that, “Farmers have long tracked crop prices on their home computers and were early adopters of GPS technology; now increasingly tech-savvy young people are taking over family farms.

“‘Everything can be done at home,’ said Chad Smith, a 30-year-old former seed salesman in Elk Mound, Wis., who now sells insurance. ‘You don’t need to go into the co-op and eat peanuts and talk to the salesman anymore.'”

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