The Agricultural Retailers Association formed in 1992 when the long-established National Fertilizer Solutions Association (NFSA) and newcomer National AgriChemical Retailers Association (NARA) merged.
NFSA contributed a strong networking and professional development component, and NARA was an active voice for farm supply dealers in Washington, D.C. In addition to overlapping membership, the organizations shared a desire to represent the distinct interests of agricultural retailers, independently of fertilizer, seed and chemical suppliers. The combined organization, ARA, became a stronger, more focused and unified voice for the ag retail industry.
Here are reflections from leaders in ag retail about the organization’s benefits and milestones.
Brandt Consolidated Co-Founder and President
The association’s biggest asset, to me, was bringing people together and exchanging ideas. For the first (National Fertilizer Solutions Association) meeting I attended, I went to Cincinnati in the late 50s. You got to meet people in the seminars, and it opened your eyes and your brain to say, ‘Gee, why didn’t I think of some of these things?’
Ramsdell F&;M President
I’ve met a lot of good people. One of the nice things on a board that size is you have CEOs of billion-dollar companies and you have presidents of little itty bitty main street, podunk companies. And it’s good to get the two together because they get to recognize that we all have the same intent, but how to get there is different.
Premier Companies President
We ultimately defended our industry and forced OSHA to reconsider that the agency had overstepped its bounds, ignored normal rulemaking and applied a regulation—Process Safety Management—that was not valid. Eventually, we were victorious in getting it repealed. Had it not been for ARA, our industry would have had to accept this injustice.
Dave Dufault, J.R. Simplot Company Vice President and General Manager AgriBusiness Retail Division
Whether you’re manufacturing, wholesaling, retailing or delivering the product, let’s tell the story about what we’re doing today to make sure West, Texas, never happens again. It took a lot of conversation and healthy debate to come together, but that was and is the whole goal and objective behind ResponsibleAg.
Willard Agri-Service Vice President
ARA was in a stage where we really needed to build membership [when I was chair.] I went on the road with our president at the time, Jack Eberspacher. We went to visit lots of the larger nationals. I found out that they were just like me, even though they ran billion-dollar companies and I ran a million-dollar company. Their problems were pretty much the same as my problems. I also learned that Jack was a wonderful salesman. In fact, I told him if he ever got tired of this association work, I’d put him on the road for us, no problem.
Brandt Consolidated Executive Vice President
One primary reason it’s been very important [to be involved in ARA] is because of our relationship with the government, our relationship with regulation, and our relationship with legislation. We delve into chemicals and fertilizers and many things that are regulated by many agencies. Having a unified voice within ARA to say, ‘Let’s plead our case, let’s talk about what we’re doing right, and tell the agencies’ so we can get better regulation that fits our businesses and satisfies the need for oversight. ARA is the perfect voice for that.
President and CEO CropLife America
I served as CEO for the National Fertilizer Solutions Association from 1984 to 1988. One of the most distinct things out of my memory of that era—and I think it still is true today for ARA—is the family fabric that’s there. Not only that the industry is family but also that the family members of the representatives on the board from the committees would show up at the events and board meetings. We got to know each other’s families and the staff’s families. And to me, that’s a reminder of the strength of American agriculture.
Dan Weber, Land O’Lakes, Retired
The future of ARA and the need for ARA is not going to change.
If you’re not trying to influence those regulations, rules and laws
that affect the way you’re doing business, then you get whatever Washington wants to push down. By being part of the process, we can affect those rulings and those laws. With what I’ve seen in 40 years, the changes are not going to diminish. It will continue to be critical that we’re involved.