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Stine finds Fort Wayne show rewarding to its seed biz
 
BY JO ANN HUSTIS
Illinois Correspondent

ADEL, Iowa — The largest independently owned business of its kind in the nation, locally headquartered 33-year-old Stine Seed Co. produces and sells seed grains to farmers from the Far West to the East Coast.

Producers will have opportunity to check out the company’s corn and soybean seed display at the 24th annual Fort Wayne Farm Show at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Ind. The three-day show is Jan. 15-17.

“We’ll be talking to those who visit our booth about the corn and soybean offerings we have for the 2013 season,” marketing director David Thompson of Stine Seed noted. “Being an independent seed company, we want to work with all the trade providers throughout the seed industry today. On both the soybean side and on the corn side, we have a wide range of trade offerings all in corn and soybean genetics.

“We’ve done the Fort Wayne Show a number of years. It’s been a pretty valuable show the past several years. For the dealers, it’s a chance to get with the growers and see what they’re thinking of, and to talk with them. The show comes at a good time, as the growers are trying to put together a final plan for the new crop season.”
The company has its own brand of soybean and corn seed. Company representatives will promote the Stine retail brand at the Fort Wayne Show.

Stine’s area of distribution takes in nearly every location in the United States where corn and soybeans are grown. The majority of the company’s ownership is with the Stine family. Stine Seed originated its research and development company in 1960, and its retail division in 1979.

“Harry Stine, our founder, began by breeding and developing soybean seed for other companies,” Thompson said. “For the first 10 years, we were really just a genetics provider to seed companies. We still have our licensing business today.

“We provide soybean genetics to many, many companies. In addition, we have our own retail brand, which kind of relates to the Fort Wayne Show where we will be.”

Stine Seed’s market area basically covers much of the Western Corn Belt, from the Dakotas to Nebraska, Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma, and to the East Coast, including Pennsylvania, Delaware and North Carolina.

Basically, Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, all in the extreme southeastern part of the nation, are probably the only states in the corn and soybean growing region not covered by Stine. The reason is because soybeans are grown by maturity zones, which would be Groups 7, 8 and 9 in Florida; however, Stine Seed does not sell products with a maturity season of more than 6.2, which means the company does not have products for the very Deep South.
Thompson observed Stine occupies a rather unique space in seed business today. “There’s not a lot of independents left out there,” he said. “We’re able to keep being independent because we have this vast research operation underneath the surface. It’s the engine that really drives our whole operation. It gives us the power to do what we do.”

Stine Seed plans to expand the company’s reach in its share of the market area in the future. Its product offering will be expanded with some new traits and technologies – as these come forward, the company will expand its dealership and, it hopes, its total volume of sales.

At the same time, Stine Seed will probably remain focused on corn and soybeans. “We have other crops as well, but we decided to really focus our energy on those two crops. For the foreseeable future, I think that’s where we’ll be,” Thompson noted.

Regarding the nation’s economic downturn of the past three years and resulting influence on Stine, he said many agriculture companies agree the ag economy is a little more stable than some other types.

“We still have to feed the world, so at some point a farmer still has to buy seed and put it in the ground if we’re going to do the work that we need to do. We’re probably not as hard hit as some of the other consumer-based economies,” Thompson added.

“I believe anytime you have that going on around you, it’s cause for growers and companies – and vendors, too – to look at where they are and how they can be as efficient as possible as a producer.
“Despite the economic downturn, we’ve seen several years of growth in our business about which we feel very positive. The signs (indicate) the ag economy is relatively strong, certainly stronger than other aspects of our economy. That’s a pretty good place to be right now, I think.”

Thompson noted the company is experiencing sales increases. On the soybean side, which is predominately what Stine Seed is known for, the market has been in a decline in terms of overall market share, although corn acres “have come on strong,” he said.
“We’ve managed to increase our market share in the soybean business the last few years, so we feel pretty positive about that. Right now, the corn side is where we’re seeing the most growth in our business. We just finished our third straight year of double-digit percentage increase in corn. So we’re really seeing that increase coming along as more and more farmers are trying our product and then coming back for that product and ordering more.
“We’ve certainly had some very, very good years of growth here recently that we’re very pleased with,” Thompson added.
Nationwide, Stine Seed has just under 500 employees. The company’s expansion plan would require it to acquire more employees in the next 5-10 years.

The company’s informational literature noted Stine has been changing the face of agriculture for three decades: “From our industry-leading soybeans to our unique line of high-performance seed corn and … our unique approach to the science of seed, Stine continues to deliver on the promise. Stine is dedicated to serving our farmer customers with expert support from our team of ‘science-of-seed’ agronomists, regional sales agronomists and district managers.”

Fort Wayne Farm Show sponsors are predicting that overall, the best year yet for the event could be 2013. To learn more about Stine Seed, attend the show next week, visit www.stineseed.com or call 515-677-2716.
1/9/2013