April 2006
Featured Articles

Crop Nutrients.….. They are MUCH MORE than the PRICE PER TON!!

by Richard Farst

Absolutely….when considering your fertility for the 2006 growing season THERE IS MUCH MORE TO CONSIDER THAN THE PRICE PER TON! No matter what the crop or the number of acres you farm, we want to present the following facts so you can make a sound decision as to where and from whom you should buy your spring crop nutrients. As you know, we represent the member Co-ops of Alabama Farmers Cooperative; and the majority of Alabama counties are represented by one of our members.

We know that price is very important and in the past few years, with the price of natural gas and other factors that we discussed last year, fertilizer has equaled or exceeded the late 1970 prices on the farm. When buying fertilizer, the price per ton is important, but in many cases no more important than many other factors.

From Whom Are You Buying???

This should be one of your first considerations when making a very sound decision. HONESTY, INTEGRITY, RELIABILITY, ABILITY, LOCATION, EQUIPMENT, RESOURCES behind the retailer and HOME TOWN staff are some of the very important aspects we ask you to look at when planning a fertility program today. When a supplier comes offering you a lower price, you must look at all the factors that go into servicing you. The reputation of your Co-op store manager and his staff goes a long way in continuing to keep your farming operation profitable.

Your Co-op store has made a sizeable investment in facilities and equipment to service the local farmer. Many of the suppliers calling on farmers today do not have local facilities or equipment, just a lower price–and many times it only looks lower. Be sure you compare oranges to oranges (many times we see an apple thrown in with them to cut quality and the price).

AFC through its Crop Nutrient, Crop Protection and Seed subsidiary AGRI-AFC, LLC has invested in strategically located terminals with excellent equipment to assure the local Co-op that they will have a supply of high quality crop nutrients at a competitive price, but these facilities cost money and, in order to maintain and replace these very efficient locations, returns on investments are necessary.

AFC is very proud of Agri-AFC’s locations with a LARGE river/rail terminal in Decatur servicing the Tennessee Valley with liquid and dry crop nutrients. This terminal has over three million gallons of liquid fertilizer storage.

Agri-AFC has a rail terminal in Montgomery, known as Ag Services, handling a large volume of dry crop nutrients with blending operations and killabrew rentals. This terminal can store over 20,000 tons of crop nutrients to meet the needs of local farmers.

A liquid rail terminal is located at Selma’s Craig Industrial Park, with storage of a large tonnage servicing east central Alabama.

Rattlesnake Bend is a rail terminal with dry warehouse, dry blending services, with large liquid storage and a liquid blending plant located at Forkland (Demopolis) servicing row crops, pastures, and the forestry industry.

In Dothan, Agri-AFC has a large dry blending plant with a great deal of dry storage and a bagging operation. Known as Red Fox Fertilizer, the facility has large liquid storage and a liquid blending plant to service southeast Alabama and southwest Georgia.

Our newest facility is in Evergreen, known as Farmers Favorite Fertilizer offering dry blending (including killabrew rentals), with large storage and a very modern bagging plant to help Red Fox meet the bag fertilizer demand. This facility was just added to the Agri-AFC family March 1, 2006, to assure a large supply of crop nutrients for our member stores in south Alabama.

Many times I mentioned large storage………THERE IS A VERY GOOD REASON FOR LARGE STORAGE. For many years the transportation industry was very efficient and could keep a few smaller terminals with material on a timely basis. Today we are in a GLOBAL economy and much of the fertilizer you will purchase will come from other countries. We can no longer count on the domestic producers to keep pace with the demands of U.S. agriculture, nor can we count on the transportation industry to deliver fertilizer at the correct location ON TIME.

High natural gas prices and low returns (actually losses) have closed many plants across the country. Mississippi Chemical of Yazoo City, MS, was a mainstay in the Southeast and now it is gone. Terra Industries purchased the facilities; however, when gas prices get high they shut the plant down because it is not profitable.

Large storage of both dry and liquid fertilizer crop nutrients are a necessity to assure our MEMBER CO-OPS, and MORE IMPORTANT, YOU, of crop nutrients to meet your spring planting needs. You, the grower, benefit the most from the INVESTMENT in Land, Buildings, Tanks, and Equipment! Your local Co-op owns the regional (Alabama Farmers Cooperative) and they invest for YOU.

Distribution

Buying early and storing material in multiple locations assures you, the grower, of competitive pricing and, most of all, products in place close to the point of usage. When considering your crop nutrient purchases you need to determine where your retailer is located and where he is going to obtain his fertilizer materials.

Price Per Acre

Price per acre in most cases is as important as the price per ton. A fertility program costing $3.00 per acre more or less might equal $20.00 per ton, yet may easily produce a crop yielding 10% more (or less). As an example, it might cost $3.00/acre to add micro nutrients to an acre of corn or cotton, and there is a great deal of research showing 7 to 10 bu. corn yield increases for a $3.00 investment. The extra $20.00/ton looks like it is costing you, but is actually increasing your income $14 to $20.00 per acre (that equals 6.6 Ac per ton of purchased fertilizer X $14.00 = $92.40 for $20.00 investment. That’s a profit of $72.40).

Please don’t assume that if a ton of fertilizer compared is higher that it is a bad buy. Quality alone is worth more than $3.00 per acre.

GOOD NEWS for the Spring of 2006!

Crop nutrient prices have leveled off and in some cases came down a small amount. As we discussed last year, crop nutrients are a very good buy. Compare them to seed, tractors, combines, pickers, and the high cost of fuel. When you pencil out what a good fertility program will return, it is a GREAT BUY!

Resources Behind Your Co-op Retailer

Agri-AFC, LLC has experienced, well trained professionals to support our members and assist you in making those sound decisions in crop nutrient programming to use the most efficient nutrient to make your investment give you the greatest return.

Example: Use 28-0-0-S nitrogen solution on your corn, cotton and pastures. Why? Best buy economically. Per unit of "N" delivered to the plant costs less! Sulfur locks in the nitrogen from volatilization. Ask your Co-op retailer for the best advice and the best crop nutrients.

Richard Farst is the Terminal Manager for Agri-AFC’s Fertilizer Department in Rattlesnake Bend.