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Archive for the ‘Agricultural Marketing’ Category

USDA Rural Development Value-Added Producer Grants Available

In Agribusiness, Agricultural Entrepreneurship, Agricultural Marketing on October 16, 2009 at 8:41 pm

Check this out: http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/rbs/coops/applicants.htm.

You can go to this Web site to learn how to apply for up to $300,000 in funding for working capital or up to $100,000 in research in the form of grants from USDA. You must be a producer, producer group, producer co-op or producer-owned business to qualify. In addition, 50 percent of the raw material used in the value-added product you are selling must come from you, the owners.

If you have questions about this grant, you can contact me for assistance at 316-305-8358. I have written several of these successfully for Kansas farmers and farmer-owned businesses. The due date is November 30.

Lax exports, tight credit and softening foreign markets create innovation opportunities

In Agribusiness, Agricultural Entrepreneurship, Agricultural Marketing, Innovation on August 28, 2009 at 11:28 pm

One of the underlying and persistent themes of this blog is the observation that it is no longer business as usual in the agribusiness sector.

In the past two weeks, I’ve had the distinct privilege of attending some truly beneficial seminars conducted by Kansas State University and the industry experts they invited to speak to us.

There was a great deal of talk about the current economic crisis and the reasons for it and how long it will last. The economists were not at all hopeful for a recovery inside of a year or even two. I pointed out that economists require two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth to confirm a recession, but many of them are much quicker to declare the recession over. At least one K-State economist said we should not discount the possibility of a “double-dip” recession. That would not be good.

But what does this mean for agriculture? Well, like most other sectors, agriculture is seeing much more stringent standards for borrowing. Bottom line: you’d better have audited, solidly-performing financial statements or you might as well save yourself a trip to the bank. At the height of commodity prices last year, even the huge grain trading firms were scrambling to get credit to cover massive margin calls in the futures market.

That’s less of a problem this year, though, as the Chinese economy has cooled and there appears to be plenty of grain-for the moment. Now that’s bad news if you’re a wheat farmer and you didn’t book at least a portion of your crop before prices nosedived.

But I couldn’t help but think as I sat there listening that there are opportunities for  value-added agri-food products.

So we’re not moving as much pork and swine offal to other parts of the world? I’ve often wondered why someone doesn’t create an upscale, branded variety meats product for Hispanics and Latinos who have two cars and a boat and still want that taste of the homeland for their families.

Concerned about the soy complex and lax exports? Have you noticed all the dietary supplements people are pushing out there? Well, a lot of people are buying them. But as far as I know, there is no significant farmer-owned company selling its own line of soy, botanicals or other supplements. That could be you.

The fastest-growing segment of the beverage industry is energy drinks. How do we participate? Or are you content to supply the corn that is turned into the HFCS that is one ingredient in the high-margin product in the convenience store cooler?

Do you realize the Kaw River Valley once was-and still is in places-a immensely fertile spot for vegetable production, including potatoes, sweet potatoes and onions? In fact, the Sioux word Topeka means “a good place to grow potatoes.” We could capitalize on the health trend and create a Kansas-farmer-owned brand of sweet potato chips, fries and snacks, making us the capital of this tasty, nutritious tuber.

A great idea, solid planning, some capital infusion, belief and a heaping helping of marketing can go a long way toward managing the market risk created by economic situations like the one we face today.

What ag needs is more exposure

In Agricultural Marketing on June 27, 2009 at 5:09 pm

I’m watching an episode of Iron Chef America thinking to myself:

“Why couldn’t the commodity and food groups leverage the featured ingredients for their benefit?”

For instance, for Iron Chef America Battle Corn, the National Corn Growers Association could have taken out some ads during the show to create greater awareness of the origin of corn and the contribution of its growers. I’d like to see that.

Better yet, commodity groups could pool their resources to create their own programming and networks about cooking and health. If we are to remain viable, we must remain relevant.

Value-added products part deux: farmer-owned grocery stores

In Agribusiness, Agricultural Entrepreneurship, Agricultural Marketing, Innovation, Small Business on June 2, 2009 at 9:50 pm

You’ve heard of farmers’ markets? How about farmers’ supermarkets?

Maybe not yet, but given the continued growth in ethical food consumerism and some of the disenchantment with Whole (paycheck) Foods, there could be a gap in the market.

Imagine a co-op of farmers and ranchers owning local franchises or independent stores committed to bringing only the freshest food, locally grown when possible. And of course, proceeds would go back to farmers, another plus for many consumers.

In the old-world economy of the last century, there were all kinds of reasons this type of thing couldn’t work. But the authenticity demanded by today’s consumers makes a farmer-owned supply chain possible.

Products I’d like to see farmers produce and brand themselves

In Agribusiness, Agricultural Entrepreneurship, Agricultural Marketing, Innovation on May 29, 2009 at 10:19 pm

For years, farmers have abdicated food processing, packaging, branding and promotion to the big packers, millers and bakers.

Now, consumers are begging farmers to wrest control of a portion of the food supply from big corporations and shorten the supply chain.

Here are a few products I’d like to see brought to market by farmers:

  • Kosher and halal meats and other food products
  • BBQ pork and beef
  • Hot dogs
  • All-natural canned fruits and vegetables
  • Sweet potato chips and fries
  • Potting soil
  • Compost
  • Mexican cheese
  • Certified humanely-slaughtered leather accessories

I know some of these things are being done. But there is room for what is being done in one region of the country to be done in another.

Let’s put our heads together and make some of these happen.

So you think you can innovate?

In Agribusiness, Agricultural Entrepreneurship, Agricultural Marketing on May 17, 2009 at 7:48 pm

As you think about which business into which to expand your agricultural operation, consider this: Sometimes, imitation is the best way to innovate. One of my mentors, Vincent Amanor-Boadu, taught me two important axioms about innovation:

1. Think about creating a sub-category, not just a product.

2. You don’t always have to be the best, just good enough.

Let’s talk about how these two axioms apply to expanding your agribusiness.

Let’s start with an example. I hold up reality TV contest shows. It seems like it all started with American Idol, but even that groundbreaking show was an imitation of a similar show called Britain’s Got Talent. Now reality TV aficionadoes will tell you the imitation has never been as good as the original, but Fox executives are perfectly happy with the results of Idol, I’m sure. In the years since Idol’s debut, other shows, such as Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance? have enjoyed a great deal of success. Again, nothing terribly original, just riding the wave.

In the example above, we see both axioms lived out. Idol didn’t have to be as good as the original, just good enough to excite American audiences into a frenzy. So You Think You Can Dance? created a new sub-category that combined a dancing theme with the Idol format.

What will your innovation imitation be? Remember that old cliche: You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, just build a “good-enough” mousetrap!

NAMA keynote speaker highlights need for differentiation

In Agribusiness, Agricultural Marketing on April 16, 2009 at 3:30 pm

This year’s opening keynote speaker at the 2009 National Agri-Marketing Association convention in Atlanta, Scott McKain, highlighted the need for differentiation with his four cornerstones:

Clarity – To grab attention and guarantee satisfaction, you have to be precise about who and what you are. You cannot differentiate what you cannot define.

Creativity – Distinctive organizations find some unique twist, some original spin to put on the interaction that they have with customers.

Communication – While we often hear about the importance of that topic, what our research clearly shows is that today’s customer wants to be engaged by a compelling narrative. Tell the story of your product, your company and your service in a manner that involves customers and prospects.

Customer-Experience Focus – This is more than the old “focus on the customer” line we’ve heard for years. Today’s Ag customer centers purchase decisions as much on feelings as facts and figures. In other words, how they feel about your marketing — and the experience and emotional connectivity they have with your organization and people — are the primary determinates of what they will buy and refer.

As reported by NAMA

Great site for help starting a business

In Agribusiness, Agricultural Entrepreneurship, Agricultural Marketing, Innovation, Small Business on March 22, 2009 at 6:42 pm

You ought to review this Web site: http://www.agmrc.org/business_development/starting_a_business/creating_a_business/legal_organizational_structure.cfm

It’s put together by a consortium of university and extension professionals. There is a great deal of useful information and links.

Hello aggies!

In Agribusiness, Agricultural Entrepreneurship, Agricultural Marketing, Small Business on March 18, 2009 at 8:40 pm

If you’re an agribusiness professional, farmer, rancher or agrepreneur, then you’ve come to the right place.

Starting now, this new blog will help transform the way you think about what you do by lending insight and catalytic ideas to your weekly routine.

Much of what we do each day surrounds getting things done. In this space, we hope to give you a refreshing place to energize your mind and recharge your creative batteries. In the process, we’ll give you practical advice based on real experience to help you manage your business better and market your products and services more effectively.

Keep checking back here regularly. We’ll see you soon.