It’s no secret, farming can be a risky business. Weather uncertainties. Pest and weed management. Grain prices. Limitations on loans. The list goes on. And it’s also no secret that decisions farmers make today can have a great impact on their yield, their potential profits -- their tomorrow.
But thanks to people like Nelson Neale, director of WinField United Services, farmers aren’t alone in making important decisions. Nelson’s job is to create programs and services that help retailers and their growers address financial and production risks. The current project Nelson is working on is widely considered a game changer in the WinField United hallways and one of the reasons we’re excited about 2019.
Nelson has been focused on risk management his entire career. After getting degrees in math and engineering, he started his career in energy and later got his first taste of working in agriculture at Tyson Foods. In 2012, he found a fit at Land O’Lakes, Inc. “The cooperative system gives me a chance to use my skills to benefit farmers. If we intend to feed the world, then we better keep these folks in business,” says Nelson. “We do everything we can to help farmers manage their businesses better.”
WinField United is all about helping farmers make decisions to optimize their yields and returns. But in today’s market, with low commodity pricing and margin pressures across the supply chain, the Crop Inputs company must go one step further. Farmers face new uncertainties – causing them to second guess taking a risk for a reward.
“These are challenging times. We are seeing farmers step down from making the best agronomic decisions. Retailers are calling for help. We have to answer that bell,” says Nelson. “And challenging times call for unique and creative solutions.”
This is where the Elite RxTM prescription service comes in – an innovative project that Nelson is leading. He calls it a customized, holistic roadmap for each field. This pilot program includes a single-service, data-driven agronomic plan for key inputs a farmer relies on to help them succeed – crop nutrition, seed selection, weed control, insecticide, micronutrients and fungicide. If the grower executes the plan as prescribed under the program and realizes a yield that falls below 95 percent of his or her historical yield, the grower could be eligible for a payment using a comparison to actual yield.
“The program will demonstrate to growers that we truly believe in the premium products we are selling,” says Jim Hedges, Vice President of Seed Marketing. “This innovative service puts our hard-earned insights to work for American farmers and supports them in an environment where margins are being squeezed from our traditional product portfolio. Plus, it gives our owners an opportunity to truly differentiate at the local level with this offer.”
Nelson is excited about what this pilot program can offer to participating farmers who are at the cusp of becoming elite growers – farmers who are early adopters but have recently had to pull back with so much uncertainty.
Having worked in risk management his whole career, Nelson understands that innovative ideas will always be met with some degree of skepticism. He also understands that skepticism has value – it can help evolve an idea. He says it’s important to listen, remain positive and stay grounded in the big picture. “If we don’t develop solutions, others will. We aren’t the only place where retailers can turn to for products and services. We need to stay proactive to stay differentiated,” says Nelson. “And what’s really energizing – our sales teams are hungry for these solutions. They are behind it and are already being great ambassadors with our retail customers.”
The Elite RxTM prescription service is being piloted across eight Midwest-based retailers in 2019. The plan is to start small, learn fast and scale up. Complimented with other services like SECURE crop inputs financing, Nelson Neale and team are making sure that farmers have the right resources when making important decisions.