(UPI)--Farm equipment dealers, in Minnesota and South Dakota, are worried growing concentration in the equipment manufacturing industry is going to drive them out of business.

They recall years ago nine companies made the farm equipment needed in the United States. Now, that industry is controlled by three multi-nationals that often are as concerned about international sales as domestic profits.

Richard Strom, executive vice president of the Farm Equipment Association of Minnesota and South Dakota, says some dealers fear those manufacturers will bypass them and sell directly to customers. He says he doubts that will happen, because if it does there will be no way to service the customer. Farmers usually buy equipment from a dealer, in the nearest small town, so if the machine breaks down during a busy planting or harvesting season, repairs will be available quickly.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture says there were 30,000 fewer farms in that state in 2001 than there were in 1971. Towns that once had five or six dealers now have only one, and towns that had one now often have none.

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