Bullish on American Agriculture
He wasn’t raised on a farm. He wouldn’t be stepping into his father’s boots to work the same acres that generations before him had worked. He had to take another route to build his career in agriculture.
Gene Kassmeyer, AgVenture General Manager, was raised in West Point, Iowa, a small midwestern town surrounded by fields of corn, the geniality of a rural population and the values that stress hard work, loyalty and a respect for tradition.
"There wasn’t a direct way for me to get into ag because my family didn’t farm," Kassmeyer said.
Attending the local community college opened up options—and Kassmeyer’s eyes—to the value of further education. He landed at Iowa State University where he earned a master’s degree in agronomy. He put his degree to good use, serving the ag industry in various capacities, from product management to sales, for leading regional seed companies.
"A lot has happened in the 30 years that I’ve worked in the seed business," he said. "In my early years, seed was seed. No traits and limited seed treatments. Today, we have modern hybrids with value added traits and trait stacks along with multiple treatments. For example, we only put two treatments on corn seed 25–30 years ago. Today, at AgVenture, we put six different fungicides, an insecticide, a nematode protectant, a bio-stack plant growth enhancer, and specifically designed polymers to reduce dust-off and improve flowability. That’s quite a difference! Back then, I could only hope for the things we have today. Never in my wildest imagination could I have envisioned today’s corn and soybean yield levels."
Kassmeyer remembers the days when farmers earned bragging rights for 200-bushel corn. Today, farmers are pushing toward 250. Their drive to do more every year is why he continues to be bullish on American agriculture and the ability of American farmers to provide for an everexpanding world marketplace.
"The world is hungry for our food, fuel and fiber," he said. "World demand is growing. A new middle class is emerging in heavily
populated countries. And we have a boundless capacity to provide for the world. We have great soils, good climate, good water (for the most part) and very, very good farmers."
Even as production levels and demand are on the rise, so is competition from other countries. Kassmeyer doesn’t see this as a threat, but as a healthy challenge for America farmers to strive to be better every year—to continually produce more. "Our farmers are more productive today than they have ever been. They have the technology, tools and can-do mindset to always be a global production leader," he said.
It’s been a pleasure for Kassmeyer to see the vast improvements in genetics and advances in technology that continue to drive the industry. He also feels that the rash of mergers, acquisitions and consolidations is a good thing. "Changes in the corporate landscape have increased the investment that companies can make in seed and genetic improvement and traits. That helps all of us."
While Kassmeyer has seen a world of change in the industry through the years, he said that the thing that never changes is the people. "This has always been an industry where people care about people and their operations. Where successful farmers depend on yield specialists to make good product recommendations and provide trustworthy service to bring value to the farm."
"I’ve spent most of my career in an environment where farmers were worried whether they were going to make money or not," he said. "We continue to have those discussions, and it gets down to maximizing your production first and then looking at your cost per bushel. And finally how to market that grain for the greatest profit."
"We have tremendous, tremendous ability to produce more bushels per acre. It all starts with the genetic yield potential of the seed products," he said. "Can we find those bushels in the seed? Can we bring increased yield out of the varieties? Can we incorporate the management practices and other cultural decisions to help the seed along?" He has confidence that in today’s environment with monitoring equipment, precision planting, seed treatments and other assets, we can fulfill the seed’s genetic potential.
Kassmeyer admits that he’s always had a top-line producing philosophy—a philosophy that melds seamlessly with his position as general manager at AgVenture. “We have the Maximum Profit System™ (MPS) that serves as a foundation for helping our customers produce more. Our Regional Seed Companies work very closely with their farmers to implement MPS. The only way we can truly help them is by gaining an intimate knowledge about their farms, cultural practices, products and actual production history (APH). We use that insight and intelligence to develop a sound crop management strategy and cropping plan for each farmer, based on local conditions. That’s how we bring value to our customers, our neighbors and our friends in the business."
Recent data—tracking production levels on five farms over the last 10 years—show that MPS has a positive impact on yield. These farms consistently out-produced county averages. Kassmeyer notes that this is very powerful information, demonstrating how AgVenture’s MPS can make a yield difference.
"We don’t have a whole lot of new ground that we can use to produce more. We have to do more with the acres we have. I think our products and MPS can help farmers do that.
"I was visiting with a farmer after the Farm Progress Show and he told me that his current crop is his all-time best. That’s thrilling to hear," Kassmeyer said. "I’ve always taken pride in the fact that I have an awesome responsibility in working with farmers, helping them feed, fuel and clothe the world. This is a great career—a great way of life—because every year is a new opportunity to do better."
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