|June 18, 2020|
I ended the first quarter chairman’s update by communicating a sense of optimism that our farmer customers would have the opportunity to plant their crops soon and life would return to some semblance of normalcy. I’m not so certain about the “normal” part of my comments but, for the most part, I believe planting progress is on par or ahead of the five-year average … and certainly ahead of last spring. ARA members in Iowa generally experienced an early and open Spring while California members enjoyed a good Spring season as well. That is not to say that our industry hasn’t experienced its share of challenges as well. While restrictions enacted to flatten the COVID-19 curve are beginning to ease in many parts of the country, ag retailers navigated very trying times when much of the heavy workload occurred. I am proud of the way the industry adapted to exceed the needs of its customers and deliver on our noble purpose.
I am also extremely pleased with the efforts of ARA staff regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. The team was involved in so many activities the past three months that I simply don’t have the space to mention all of them in this letter, but you can access a summary here to learn more. Whether it was the conference call on March 19 to update members on the latest potential impacts of COVID-19, working with FEMA to provide more than 25,000 masks to 70 ARA member companies, providing a letter template to designate employees as “critical infrastructure," setting up a resource center within the ARA Member Home site, or providing answers through the DC Help Desk, ARA has been there to support members and provide true value. I hope you agree and will join me in thanking the entire team.
Challenges are viewed as opportunities by resilient individuals. We have all learned from our experiences of the last 90 days and will be better for them. Our industry and its stakeholders are continually changing and adapting. Whether it’s a new method of interacting with our farmer-customers, the increased use and development of digital tools, a re-imagination of a distribution network, or perhaps, a more efficient method to conduct meetings – the way business is done has been forever changed.
On the heels of navigating a spring impacted by the novel coronavirus, another challenge was presented to ag retailers on June 3 when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registration of dicamba for over the top application on dicamba-tolerant soybeans. This ruling could not have come at a more inopportune time for retailers and farmers in the 34 states permitted to make such applications. ARA staff engaged on the issue quickly and reached out immediately to stakeholders to gather information, request that EPA take quick action to support the ag retail industry and convened a call to answer member questions on the situation. EPA responded to ARA staff on June 7 and moved quickly thereafter to issue a cancellation order pursuant to FIFRA that allowed for usage of existing stocks for a limited time under the requirements of the invalidated label. The plaintiffs then filed an emergency stay with the court to challenge the EPA response which is where we stand as I write this update. This summary shows a snapshot of the action and reach of ARA on this issue.
It is in challenging times that the true value of working together with one voice is most evident. But these benefits also hold true when times may not feel as turbulent. I’d like to think that ARA has benefited its members in spades so far this year. Let us all remember this delivered value during the times that don’t feel as challenging. That could mean having what appears to be a favorable executive or legislative governmental branch or regulatory body or some other perceived tailwind, because as we’ve witnessed in 2020, things can change quickly.
The staff was also busy attending to other key issues this quarter as well. They include the following:
Remember to register for the ARA Annual Conference to be held Dec. 1-3 in Las Vegas, Nev. This year’s theme is “All In For Ag Retail: A Future You Can Bet On” and promises to be an excellent opportunity to learn and network with peers and suppliers from the industry as the nearly 600 attendees from the 2019 conference can attest. The ARA conference planning committee has developed an informative and entertaining agenda that you won’t want to miss. Visit the ARA website at www.aradc.org/conference to learn more and to register today.
If you are currently an ARA member and not actively involved in a committee or working group, I encourage you to do so. If you have interest in your organization joining our board of directors, please reach out to Daren Coppock or me. Our nominating committee will be busy this year recommending new board members to fill slots that are available due to term limit retirements as well as adding one new retail board member in accordance with our bylaw changes adopted last December. We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Thank you to each and every member of the Agricultural Retailers Association for your support. If you are not currently a member, please consider this my personal invitation to join and add to ARA’s already strong influence. Daren, Donnie Taylor (firstname.lastname@example.org) or I would be happy to talk further about the benefits of membership if you have questions. Until next time, have a safe and enjoyable summer.