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A conversation with Joe Merschman, President & CEO of Merschman Seeds

Article cover photo
Merschman Seeds is ready for new challenges and opportunities in 2019. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Aaron Putze, ISA communications director

As 2019 begins, several major ag seed and bio chemistry companies are proceeding with their new business ventures following well-publicized mergers. How the world of production agriculture will sort out these changes and proceed in serving farmers is unknown. In the meantime, there are new challenges and opportunities for those companies that haven’t changed their business structure and governance. One of them is Merschman Seeds.

Aaron Putze, Iowa Soybean Association’s director of communications and external relations, recently traveled to West Point, Iowa and sat down for a conversation with Joe Merschman, the company’s president and CEO.

Aaron: What word best describes the seed industry?

Joe Merschman: Change. It’s happening rapidly, especially with soybeans given the new traits and technologies available to growers. Liberty Link GT 27 and Enlist 3 are good examples. They offer exceptional weed management given the three modes of action they bring to the field. With the Philippines’ approval last summer, Liberty Link is OK’d for all markets. We’re awaiting final regulatory approval for Enlist 3; our hope is that the issue is discussed later this month at the G20 Summit.

How will the mergers involving some of the larger ag seed and chemistry companies impact agriculture?

No one knows for sure. It will take 3-5 years until we truly know the new playing field and how farmers will be impacted by these mergers. What we can say for certainty is that mergers will continue.

How do these change affect companies like yours?

With consolidation comes opportunity for strong independents like us to offer new products. So, in a way, the mergers in the seed and technology industries will create new competition in the industry. The independents that remain are very strong and will likely capitalize from some of the confusion caused by the mergers and acquisitions. We pride ourselves in serving our farmer customers and getting them the product and expertise when they need it most. While the larger companies work to figure out new paperwork and decision models, we’ll continue moving full speed ahead with what we know works.

What do you focus on most as a company?

Yields. Our greatest opportunity as a company is to help farmers achieve higher yields. It’s why we exist; it’s the reason we’re here – to help farmers increase production in the most cost-effective way. You hear about component-based pricing but until someone steps up and is willing to make it work, we’re staying focused on bushels per acre.

What’s your approach to seed treatments?

We treat about 90 percent of our seed. We believe it’s one of the most effective ways to ensure uniform stands which is the first step to higher yields. Two of the most critical times for any plant to have the opportunity to achieve strong yields is good, even emergence and timely rains during pod filling.

Tell me the biggest change you’ve seen in serving farmers?

The need to get seed delivered to farmers more quickly in the spring. The whole calendar has moved up. We need to be 30 days quicker in our delivery. We continually gear up to move faster; we want to be shipping seed to dealers and farmers by Nov. 1. Farmers need to have seed no later than April 1 because they’ll take the opportunity to plant if they can.

What is your impression of the Iowa Soybean Association?

ISA provides a valuable service to farmers and the industry. It stays on top of the legislative issues and government regulations and drives demand. The association must continue to develop markets and new uses and work with the non-ag community, so they better understand and appreciate what it takes to grow food. Staying active on a host of fronts helps lift all boats in the harbor.

What is your advice to Presidents Trump and Xi to end the trade dispute between China and the U.S.?

Both leaders must be respectful to each other. The Chinese people are a very proud people. The U.S. is a fledgling country compared to China and we must recognize this. We must understand the differences between our perspectives and national interests and find common ground. The U.S. and China need each other. They need our commodities and we need their markets. That said, any deal made must be fair to both sides. It doesn’t have to be a superior deal, just one that’s workable. I’ve long advocated for every administration to have a historian on their team – someone who knows how religions and societies work. It really should be a cabinet position. Knowing your history can help you make better decisions moving forward.

For media inquiries, please contact Katie Johnson, ISA Public Relations Manager at kjohnson@iasoybeans.com or Aaron Putze, ISA Communications Director at aputze@iasoybeans.com

For permission to republish articles or to request high-res photos contact Aaron Putze at aputze@iasoybeans.com. Iowa Soybean Association | 1255 SW Prairie Trail Pkwy | Ankeny | IA | 50023 | US

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