Friday, February 17, 2017

Farmers shun local stores to buy chemicals online; tool allows them to compare prices and save big

FBN tool shows what others
are paying for the same products
A growing number of farmers are shopping online to save money, Jesse Newman and Jacob Bunge report for The Wall Street Journal. Last year Farmers Business Network Inc., a San Francisco-area startup backed by Google Ventures, "launched a service allowing farmers to monitor what their peers nationwide pay for hundreds of chemicals."

"Farmers use the data to negotiate for lower prices from local retailers or buy products directly from FBN," reports the Journal. "Online sellers, including some wholesale distributors and national farm retailers, often offer generic versions of popular pesticides that are cheaper than the branded counterparts frequently sold by co-ops. FBN says it also can offer products at a discount because it lacks expenses associated with brick-and-mortar facilities and is able to get better deals from manufacturers because of its national scale."

For instance, Illinois farmer Brandon Sinclair said last year he paid $26,000 online for herbicides for his corn and soybeans fields, "roughly half what he says he used to pay at his local co-operative," reports the Journal. The savings added up big, allowing Sinclair to afford "to spring for a helicopter to wrangle his herd of cattle. Now he is urging his neighbors to shop online, too."

Farmers who like online shopping say one problem is that "local prices for crop supplies can vary widely across the country," reports the Journal. Farm retailers, who say the season and the availability of supplies can fuel discrepancies in prices of chemicals, "argue that online portals can’t replace the relationships local co-ops foster with their customers and the logistics of shipping large volumes of hazardous chemicals can be a hurdle for upstarts." Others say they are considering turning to offering online sales "as a way to defend their turf."

No comments: