The Agricultural Retailers Association annual conference and expo kicked off Tuesday night, Nov. 27, with a fertilizer and weather sponsored seminar, a reception for first-time attendees and the trade show/expo grand opening reception in San Diego, Calif.

This was the official opening day, but Monday was when the executive board of directors and the full board of ARA met to recognize fiduciary duties of board members, go over pre-conference programming, approve financials and the audit and look to the future for ARA’s involvement in upcoming projects.

Jay Vroom noted projects being undertaken by CropLife America and the continuous attack on the use of crop protection products by environmental activists. Representing The Fertilizer Institute in talking to the board was Ford West and Lara Moody. She explained the fertilizer industry’s efforts to implement nutrient stewardship through promoting the use and understanding of the IPNI 4R program. Education efforts include the new IPNI 4R manual, CCA webinar series, the NRCS 4R/590 on-line learning modules for best management practices, co-branding of 4R tool kit items, and 4R advocate spokespersons.

Recognition was given to the four board members who ended their service on the board. The four thanked for their service were Doyle Pearl, J.B. Pearl Sales & Service; Ritter Arnold, Ritter Ag Services; Bob Trogele, FMC; and Denny Stahl, GVM.

During the evening representatives associated with agricultural retailer associations in Brazil, Canada and France were introduced and asked to provide a simple explanation of what is happening in each country. One thought expressed was that a world ag retailer association would have value for all countries who made a commitment to participate.

Tuesday’s main activity was the annual golf tournament. The afternoon included time for “side meetings” as suppliers and retailers could have private discussions. The first sponsored meeting was by Koch Industries, makers of Agrotain.

Fred Below, Ph.D., University of Illinois, and Jed Lafferty, Planalytics, presented “Build a Crop Plan Around Corn Yield’s Big Factors—Weather and Nitrogen.” Below is known for his explanation of how 300 bushel corn will eventually be the standard. Lafferty provided “business weather intelligence” for which Planalytics is known within the ag industry.

For the short-term forecast, Lafferty, managing director life sciences, said his company foresees below normal temperatures for December 2012 in the majority of the Corn Belt. December temperatures surrounding the Corn Belt will be what could be classified as normal. The below normal precipitation will be centered in the High Plaines during December. Low precipitation in January will likely occur in Iowa, Nebraska and much of Minnesota, Kansas and South Dakota.

Lafferty stressed that there is really no such thing as normal, and forecasting weather into April at this time is very hard. The best bet for ag retailers is to assist their customers to plan for “normal” or proven success and not worry about the weather. There still needs to be planning with “what if scenarios” that kick in when the outlook is more obvious.

“Be flexible and anticipate changes and be proactive,” Lafferty said. He guaranteed the audience that “2013 is not going to be as bad as 2012,” which was the worst in more than 100 years per Planalytics analysis.

Of note is that this year’s expo is the largest ever as 100 exhibitors set up. Attendance for the conference has surpassed 600 with walk-up registrations.