The third and final day of the Agricultural Retailers Association annual conference concluded with a larger than normal percentage of attendees attending breakout sessions—one focused on fertilizer pricing and the other emphasized benchmarking a company against its peers.

Daren Coppock, ARA president and CEO, introduced the full session speaker John May, John Deere president of Agricultural Solutions and chief information officer. He spoke about the uncharted future of technology in agriculture and highlighted John Deere’s “suite” of offerings and a look to the future. A video showed what could be the way that farmers operate their farms from distant locations and on the go with tools that are as yet not invented.

Awards were another portion of the morning session with the AgGateway/ARA Technology award, as voted on by the ARA membership, was presented to WinField for its R-7 Tool that assists agronomist salespersons and farmers make decisions about planting and fertilizing crops. AgGateway President and CEO Rod Conner congratulated Dave Gebhardt, WinField director of applied agronomic research and product development.

The gavel was exchanged by Crop Production Services’ Billy Pirkle, 2012 ARA chairman, to new chairman Johnny Council with the Lyman Group. In turn, Council presented Pirkle with a commemorative thank you for his year of leadership.

In one late-morning breakout, David Asbridge, president and senior economist with NPK Fertilizer Advisory Service, provided an outlook for crop production in 2013 and the likely demand of fertilizer based on acres and nutrients withdrawn during last year’s drought. He said he sees a “continuation of what we saw this year” in terms of different crop planted acres but there are a “lot of caveats “ to consider before seed will be in the ground.

Nitrogen supply was a main emphasis of a large portion of his presentation. Fall anhydrous ammonia sales were less than other years because of dry soils. The outlook is for “price strength” of ammonia in the spring. First quarter 2013 imports of urea could be a record. UAN availability should be good because of imports, too. The top five companies involved in nitrogen fertilizer manufacturer and distribution controlled about 77 percent of all sales in 2012.

Alexey Pally, fertilizer derivatives broker with FIS Fertilizer Swaps Desk in the U.S., explained the swaps system for use by ag retailers in fertilizer purchases and providing risk management for pricing.

The other conference-ending breakout option was titled “Making Your Ship Battle-Ready.” Presenters were Susan Summers and Kelly Farrell with Farrell Growth Group. There human resources focus is to benchmark to determine how a company stacks up to peer companies and industry averages.