The merging of United Agri Products into Agrium, Inc. has been progressing for several months with little official company news issued about the integration. An explanation of the new Agrium retail division was provided by Jeff Tarsi, director of retail sales and strategic initiatives, during the annual meeting of the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers prior to the holidays.

"Since May the 5th, we've been very actively working to integrate these two groups. When we finish, it looks like we are going to end up with about 800 retail locations across the United States and over $5 billion in retail input business. The integration is going very well. We are ahead of our original time schedule," said Tarsi.

The management structure is in place including the senior leadership team that reports to Richard Gearheard, president of Agrium Retail, four from the old UAP business and four from the previous retail side of the Agrium organization.

Agrium began acquisitions and forging business agreements in the U.S. and South America in 1993. Over the years in the U.S., Agrium brought together Crop Production Services, Western Farm Services and Royster Clark.

Finally in 2008, Agrium, number one, and UAP, number two, in U.S. input distribution were given regulatory approval to merge. Tarsi is on the integration team. "We think we'll find more than a $100 million in efficiencies over the next three years in putting these groups together, at least that is what we've promised," he said.

Efficiency in branding and to alleviate confusion, the expectation is that all ag retail operations will be united under one banner, Tarsi said. Plans are to rename all ag retailer locations Crop Production Services.

"More and more we are dealing with farmers that farm across state lines. We want farmers to recognize our business in any state where they go," Tarsi said.

The combined "footprint" of Crop Production Services will be the combination of the legacy Agrium and UAP. "Very rarely do you find companies you are looking to put together that are mirror images of one another," Tarsi said. But Agrium and UAP were mirror images, he said.

"Looking at Agrium business, 59 percent was fertilizer, 25 percent chemicals and 8 percent seed. When you turn to UAP, 30 percent of the business was fertilizer, 53 percent was chemicals and 14 percent was seed. When you put the two together, we have great balance for growers," Tarsi said.

The mirror image also was reflected in the locations-in general, where Agrium was heavily represented, UAP wasn't, and where UAP was strong, Agrium wasn't. Tarsi referred to a map showing that Crop Production Services outlets will be in all the nation's main agricultural production areas.
Besides the geographical service, Tarsi also noted a wider distribution for Agrium products. By servicing growers from coast to coast and border to border, Agrium speads the risk by assisting more producers grow a wider diversity of crops with product use spread over more months of the year.

Tarsi also noted, "Growers are looking at one-stop shopping today. They want to be able to go to one place of business and get all their input needs. Crop Production Services locations will be one-stop shops.

"We now are very balanced in terms of fertilizer and chemicals, and the two companies together have a renewed interest in growing our seed and trait business. That is a key point for us moving forward. We are going to be putting a lot of emphasis on seed," Tarsi said.