ARA Hosts Conference & Expo, Highlights Professional Development

The 2020 ARA Conference and Expo will be held Dec. 1-3, 2020, in Las Vegas, Nev. ( ARA )

The Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) held its annual Conference & Expo in New Orleans, La., Dec. 3-5. With approximately 600 of ag retail’s leaders in attendance, the event showcased highlights of the year in ag retail, while focusing on the year ahead.

In the days preceding the Conference & Expo, the ARA Board of Directors gathered for its quarterly meeting. The agenda included the review of regular business operations of the organization and opportunities to strengthen and create efficiencies. Following a report from a governance task force that was formed out of strategic planning sessions, the Board took action to expand the Executive Committee to include two additional retailer seats, and to shift the seats on the Board of Directors from 24 to 27 retailers.

“As an organization, we are always seeking ways to strengthen the voice of the ag retailer,” says ARA President and CEO Daren  Coppock. “The action by the board will continue to ensure that the best interests of ag retailers remain the priority in the work that the ARA Board of Directors and the ARA staff do on a daily basis.”

Building on the focus on ag retailers, the ARA Conference & Expo was themed “Unmask Your Business Potential”, encouraging attendees to fully engage in the sessions and with exhibitors for a truly enriching experience.

“The ARA conference is always one of the highlights of the entire year for me,” says 2019 ARA Chairman Troy Johnson of Wilbur-Ellis. “It’s a great chance to connect with a broad range of industry peers, and I always bring new information home that is valuable to my ‘day job.’”

The industry speaker lineup included a keynote presentation and a Q&A session with CEO and Chairman of the FMC Corporation Pierre Brondeau, and a panel on competing retail models moderated by AgPro’s own Margy Eckelkamp, and comprised of Alexander Reichert, co-founder and CEO of AgVend; Dave Thomas, executive vice president of Helena Agri-Enterprises LLC; and John Demerly, CEO of CommoditAg.

Brondeau walked attendees through the past ten years of innovation at FMC, providing attendees an inside look at how the company arrived at the successful position it occupies in the agriculture industry today.

During the retail models panel, the interactive discussion included the presentation of recent findings from a Farm Journal study on purchasing decisions which showed 63% of farmers have ordered a product or service for farming from a mobile device. Attendees learned how farmer demographics, technology, and customer expectations are changing their business.

“Ag retailers are responding to how they can better serve their farmer customers with new products, services and digital interactions,” says Eckelkamp. “Technology is a tool retailers are embracing as it has the power to enhance their roles as trusted advisors.” 

Following the panel Major General Vinny Boles, U.S. Army (Ret.) took the stage for a final keynote presentation entitled, “Leveraging the Links in Your Supply Chain.” Drawing on his career experience, Major General Boles highlighted four critical issues that will snag a supply chain.

Throughout the event, ARA highlighted its professional development pathway – the opportunity for ARA members to build skills, develop employees, and prepare for many of the issues businesses and the ag retail industry face each year. Over the course of the year, ARA and its partners train hundreds of professionals through its workshops, webinars and events. From crisis preparedness to message training, and policy-focused webinars to strategic decision-making, there are opportunities for every employee to receive current, practical information and skills all year. For full details and registration, click here. 

During the closing session, ARA also unveiled its newly redesigned website. The fresh, simplified look also includes a new member homepage experience. ARA members can log in to view exclusive information, key industry and association resources, focused communications and committee information in one central place. The new site allows visitors to quickly view the work ARA is doing and find the answers to any questions about current events and issues in ag retail. ARA members will receive updates on what’s new on the website via the association’s biweekly newsletter. 

“This year’s conference and expo exceeded my expectations,” says Coppock. “The ARA members and industry partners in attendance walked away with knowledge they can leverage to improve their customer service, streamline their operations and address the issues they face each day. This event provided us an opportunity to reflect on the last year and renew our excitement for the coming year. I look forward to taking the information gained from our speakers and members and applying it to our work representing the ag retail industry.”

Learn more about the 2019 ARA Conference & Expo on the website or on ARA’s social media. Browse photos from the event. The 2020 ARA Conference and Expo will be held Dec. 1-3, 2020, in Las Vegas, Nev.