A trip to the corner farm supply store still works for some, but more farmers are basing their seed, fertilizer and pesticide product purchases on factors other than convenience, a Purdue University study reveals.

Purdue's Center for Food and Agricultural Business conducted the study, which compared data from farmer surveys in 1998 and 2003. About 2,100 farmers nationwide with annual sales of at least $100,000 participated in the 2003 survey.

The study found that farmers place greater importance on price, product performance and customer service than on ease of purchase when making agricultural input buying decisions. The study identified five distinct ag input market segments, or buyer types. Previous market research identified only three.

The five buyer groups the study identified include price, performance, convenience, service and balance, says report author and Purdue agricultural economist Christine Wilson. Traditional ag input market segments include business, or value-oriented, buyers; economic buyers, who focus on low cost; and relationship buyers - those farmers who purchase from the same dealer year after year.

"Among the five buyer groups that we found, the price group places the most importance on cost," Wilson says. "The performance group is most interested in product performance. The convenience buyers prefer to purchase locally. Service buyers are very relationship-oriented. And those farmers in the balance group tend to place equal emphasis on the other four factors."

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Source: Purdue University, Dealer Update