FNA’s spokesperson says their goal of getting the best possible deal for farmers doesn’t always make them popular with input supply companies
Saskatchewan farmer Jim Mann started Farmers of North America (FNA) in 1998 in a bid to make farming more profitable. Mann rounded up interested farmers and began approaching input supply companies to form mutually beneficial partnerships, by lowering transportation and transaction costs.
“And they told him to take a hike,” says Bob Friesen, FNA spokesperson.
Friesen says it’s difficult to work with Canadian input supply companies to this day “because they see FNA for what FNA is. FNA wants to try to reduce the price as much as possible for farmers, and so they don’t really like us.”
But Jim Mann persisted, and today FNA has 10,000 members in Canada. FNA doesn’t own any bricks and mortar, but is a farmer-membership organization that links farmer members and input supply partners, said Friesen.
“They basically hire us to buy for them. And we offer those products (to) them — ranging from chemicals to fertilizer to bins to tires and ear tags and parts,” says Terry Drabiuk, vice president of operations at FNA.
A yearly membership costs farmers $625. FNA charges $1,675 for three years, and $2,625 for five, says Drabiuk.
“They could use one program and get it back instantly,” Drabiuk says. He added how quickly farmers recoup membership costs depends partly on which programs they access.
FNA has spot priced and spot sourced fertilizer, Friesen says. After spot sourcing a fertilizer batch, FNA develops a program and delivers the fertilizer to members.
FNA is now planning to build its own fertilizer plant project, with the help of farmer investors. Friesen says they’re approaching the fertilizer plant differently than their spot pricing programs.
“We’re not doing it to introduce competition. We’re doing it simply to accrue benefits for the farmer investors. We don’t want to destroy the marketplace for fertilizer,” says Friesen.
FNA and its non-profit arm, FNA-Strategic Agriculture Institute, aren’t afraid to lobby for regulatory change, either. At the 2013 Canadian Farm Progress Show in Regina, Friesen encouraged farmers to sign and send in letters asking the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) to speed registration of generic pesticides.
Friesen says the objective wasn’t to criticize pesticide or fertilizer companies, but to make farmers more cost competitive.
“Even on that pesticide issue, we’re not trying to eliminate the exclusive marketing protection that basic registrants have, the innovators have, when they register an innovative product. They can keep that protection. We also want to pay them fair compensation for the data that’s relied on,” says Friesen.
“But after that, that’s when the PMRA should really put an effort into expediting the registration of generics.” †
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