March 26, 2020

This is the first of what I plan to be quarterly updates to the current and prospective membership of the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA). When I assumed the role of ARA chairman, I committed to communicate with the membership through a variety of methods.

One of those was meeting as many of you as practical in person to understand your critical needs so all of us associated with ARA can become an even stronger voice for ag retail in Washington, D.C. Obviously, the travel portion of that plan is in flux given the rapid progression of COVID-19.  

As I sit in my home office, it is late March and I must admit that I’m a bit unsettled as I'm sure most people are. We are on the cusp of planting season here in the Midwest (at least I hope), and there is tremendous apprehension due to the spread of the novel coronavirus. All of Illinois is under a shelter –in-place order and the only businesses operating are those considered “essential.”  

Thankfully, we all participate in one of those critical and essential industries. When one considers the food supply chain, the agricultural industry stands among the first links ready to help our farmer-customers do what they do so very well; I’m proud of that fact, as I know you are.

I’m also proud of the way ARA has stepped up to the challenges presented by this crisis. I'm aware of many comments made by members that detail their sincere appreciation for the critical role ARA plays every day and especially in times of crisis. 
ARA members currently have access to a special section on the ARA website that contains numerous resources and links to government agency information along with practical tools to address concerns related to business continuity during the COVID –19 crisis. If you haven’t yet taken advantage of this new Resource Library, I encourage you to do so by logging in to the Member Home section of the ARA website here.

If you do not know your ARA login, email Melisa Augusto, director of communications and marketing, at

If you find that you’re looking for more information, a specific resource, or answers to a question, I encourage you to use the ARA DC Help Desk so the ARA staff can assist.  

On March 19, more than 300 representatives of ARA member companies participated in a phone call to discuss the critical elements to be included in a letter to President Trump regarding the coronavirus pandemic and its impacts on ag retailer operations. There was an unprecedented number of participants on this ARA call, only rivaled (and not so closely) by similar discussions related to the use of dicamba on soybeans.

While many of our thoughts are, rightfully centered on the current challenges at hand, I thought I'd give a brief reminder of the important wins for our industry during Q1 2020 in which ARA exercised heavy influence. These wins are part of the reason we all benefit by belonging to a retailer-focused national association:
  • Phase 1 of the US-China trade agreement was signed in mid-January, providing some positive news to an issue that heavily impacted our industry;
  • The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) was ratified by Congress the following week. Passage of this trade agreement was preceded by the highest response to an ARA grassroots alert calling on members to reach out to their representatives that the association has ever recorded; and
  • The Navigable Waters Protection Rule was announced late January by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency giving much-needed clarity for ag retailers and farmers while being science-based and consistent with the Clean Water Act.
I am optimistic that our customers will be able to plant their crops in the coming weeks and that life will return to some semblance of normalcy soon. To have been in this business for decades as have so many of you, optimism is a must.  

Yes, we’ve been in tough situations before, but our industry has always weathered the storms and has come out even stronger. And I believe we will this time as well. Thank you for your continued support of and faith in ARA.

Until next quarter, best wishes for a safe and successful #plant2020. 

Rod Wells
Agricultural Retailers Association

Editor's Note: You can find an archive of these letters at

Retailer Fact$ is a publication of the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA). Articles may not be reprinted without permission of the association. The views of contributors may not reflect the views of the association. Comments, suggestions and inquiries are welcome. © 2020.

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