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Dow’s ag successes partly owing to bright FFA alumni
Indiana Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — If one has sampled fried foods at the Indiana State Fair, eaten fried foods at a retail restaurant or bought bagged popcorn at the store, they’ve probably eaten food prepared with oil developed by Dow AgroSciences, headquartered in Indianapolis.

Since launching its oils business, Dow estimates it has removed one billion pounds of fat from the American diet, said Drew Ratterman, commercial workforce leader at Dow AgroSciences.

The worldwide conglomerate still calls its seeds, traits and oils business its “bread and butter,” or the focus of what it does, Ratterman added. Founded in 1897 by Herbert Dow, The Dow Chemical Co. began with experiments using chemicals that could benefit farmers. Two of its earliest widely used products were Lorsban, an insecticide, and 240, an herbicide.

Dow AgroSciences, a subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Co., began in 1989 as DowElanco, a joint venture between the plant sciences businesses of Dow and Eli Lilly and Co. In 1997, DowElanco was renamed Dow AgroSciences when Dow acquired 100 percent ownership from Lilly.

Through it all, the focus on ag science has never changed, Ratterman said.

“Our world’s population crossed seven billion last year. We’re on our way to nine billion people by 2050, according to most estimates. That growth globally means more mouths to feed,” Ratterman said.
“We’re not going to do it on more land, because land is not available. We’re going to do it with better technology in seed, nutrients and pest control, along with better farm management and greater mechanization.”

He said not many companies are taking on this challenge, but Dow AgroSciences is proud of its contribution. In many ways, despite more than 100 years in business, the company is really hitting its stride now, Ratterman added, in the number and popularity of its products.

“Many senior leaders have said that they’ve not seen as many products released in their first 25 years with Dow as in the last five years,” he stated.

In particular, SureStart, a pre- and post-applied herbicide on corn, and N-Serve nitrogen stabilizer are two chemical products which are taking off, Ratterman said.

In seed technology, Mycogen brand corn hybrids featuring SmartStax technology are some of Dow’s newest products.
“All this new technology is a solution for growers trying to feed a growing world,” he said.

Ratterman said Dow’s estimates call for an increase in global ag production by 200 percent, and he believes that improvement is doable based on the rate of progress so far. He said the increase from an average of 160 bushels per acre of corn to 220 bushels in recent years is an example of the improvements made in ag technology.

As Dow AgroSciences looks to the future, it has not forgotten its past or the people who have helped build it.

“The reason we are the fastest growing manufacturer of ag chemicals and seed is because of our great people and loyal partnerships,” Ratterman said.

Dow AgroSciences is in its 56th year of support to the National FFA, and many of its employees have an FFA background.

“Many of our leaders have benefited individually from involvement with FFA. There aren’t many organizations that develop future ag leaders like FFA. It’s a great partnership,” Ratterman said.
“When you are considering employing a bright, artistic young person who is positive and knowledgeable about agriculture, time and time again FFA is one of those themes on their resumes.”
In his new position as commercial workforce leader, he seeks out qualified candidates for employment at Dow AgroSciences, especially as many senior staff are approaching retirement. He said as a result, he works closely with FFA.

“Dow AgroSciences has been a wonderful Indianapolis convention supporter and sponsor of many FFA programs, including band and chorus, the State President’s Conference and a new effort to fight hunger by packing one million meals at our convention,” said Lori Randle, regional director of the National FFA Foundation.