The changes in agriculture leading into the new century have been described by some as overwhelming, while others are calling it opportunity.
There is no doubt that this is a time of dramatic change in production agriculture, and participants in the industry need to apply their energy in moving with the waves. As Steve Ahring, past president of AGvantage IP, recently commented, "Never before has the producer of agricultural products been subjected to so much information, so much new technology and so many choices. Much of the change that is occurring in production agriculture is being driven by new technology." He listed the science of cellular technology, satellite imagery, global positioning, variable rate planters and input calculators and seed treatment and coatings as prime technological examples.
One of the results of the technology-prompted movement has been the banding-together of farmers with like interests, in order to expand and develop those interests. A prime example of this movement is the action of a number of Kansas Category I seed growers who banded together in 1999 to form AGvantage IP, a cooperative of Category I growers designed to meet the needs of its members in a rapidly changing business environment. Category I growers are those Kansas producers who have completed certification of seed crops for at least three consecutive years, and are the most experienced seed growers in Kansas. AGvantage IP was developed to provide Kansas seedsmen the opportunity to achieve access to new technologies and crop cultivars while maintaining their own identities.
In this day of advanced technology in seed and grains, identity preservation is critical, and if there are acknowledged experts in identity preserving production, it is the seed growers. In Kansas, producers of certified seed have been practicing identity preservation for 75 years. Through the structure of AGvantage IP, there is a member seed-grower in close proximity to every farming community in Kansas, with a network of contract growers accustomed to the demands of identity preservation production. AGvantage IP also has the dealer network to allow large-scale distribution and the capability to assure adoption of new technologies. As Ahring pointed out, "AGvantage IP has the ability to produce, condition, and distribute large quantities of genetically pure crop seeds and coordinate the production and delivery of grain crops with unique or special end-use characteristics."
Ahring said another distinction is that AGvantage IP allows members to collectively interact, negotiate and contract with the owners of new technologies, as well as potential end users of the products.
Ahring said the seedmen-members of the AGvantage IP Cooperative represent 2 million bushels of seed wheat sales, 1 million bushels of soybean seed sales and a considerable amount of corn, grain sorghum and alfalfa seed sales, and they are trading with their neighbors, Kansas farmers.
Brett Myers, executive vice president of the Kansas Association of wheat Growers, said his association has worked closely with AGvantage IP over the past several months. He said, "It has been a very good relationship to bring the seed grower and the producer closer together and to learn more about what others needs are. Our relationship has let seed growers learn more about their customer, and has let KAWG members learn more about the businesses from whom they are purchasing their seed wheat."
In speaking about AGvantage, Ahring commented, "We are enlightened enough to know that the best thing we can do for our business is to make our customers more profitable. AGvantage IP provides the opportunity to serve as a bridge between the developers of new technologies and the end-user of those technologies. Most importantly to us, as seedsmen, the AGvantage IP Cooperative provides the opportunity for our members to remain independent business people trading in their local communities."