ARA Conference Highlights: Presenters showcase top ideas
The theme of the 2012 ARA conference and expo was Ag Retail Top Guns: Preparing Your Business for the Future, and presenters shared their unique views on how to better fit that model. This year’s conference featured nine speakers over the two-day conference. Here are some highlights of each speaker’s presentation.
After opening remarks from Daren Coppock, the conference began with Carl Casale, president and CEO of CHS Inc. His presentation, “Navigating a Dynamic World,” offered his perspective on multiple issues impacting the ag retailer today. One of the main drivers influencing agriculture around the world, Casale said, was energy. Gasoline demand is expected to peak in the United States in 2015. Domestic exploration of energy resources in the U.S. will continue to increase and the U.S. may become an exporter of fuels. The U.S. is becoming more energy self-sufficient, but the world is thirsty for fuel especially as the middle class in China is increasing.
Carl Casale Attendees were reminded about the need to nearly double the world’s food supply by 2050 to meet the increasing population. In light of this demand, Casale provided outlooks on corn, soybeans and wheat. He projected that the U.S. share of the global corn market will decline. However, where corn is grown within the U.S. will shift. He cited North Dakota as an example. He said it was possible within five years that North Dakota could grow more corn than wheat.
In soybeans, he said China would drive global soybean demand and it will be for the actual soybeans and not the oil. In the wheat market, Casale said Russia would be the big player in the world. He said Russia and areas around the Black Sea will lead wheat exports, which will also lead to increased volatility in this market.
The key point of Casale’s presentation was getting retailers to see their businesses as relevant. “You can either be respected or liked; relevant or independent,” he said. He explained that being relevant is more important by sharing the example of K-Mart. Nearly everyone recognizes the name, but not many would probably care if it went away. That lack of caring shows that K-Mart is no longer relevant. He said ag retailers need to evaluate if they are relevant to their customers. He told retailers to ask themselves these questions.
- Do they have the right people in place selling the right products?
- Does their competitor have an edge over them?
- Do you add value?
- Do customers have more technology than you?
- Are you relevant to bankers?