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Rocket man seeks rouging work

In the world of ag business, the dollar figures keep getting bigger and bigger

For anyone a bit reluctant to deal with large (about to get larger) multinational corporations for crop protection products, I am today launching Lee’s Hand Rouging Services — backed by years of experience, I will keep your fields weed free, without chemicals and you just have to deal with me.

Of course at the rate I move, I probably can only look after about two acres per season, so with travel costs, sandwich breaks, coffee breaks, day dreaming breaks, etc. I’m going to need to charge about $1 per square foot. It’s a little pricey but then you get to have me tramping through your two acres all season long. If you’re one of these 7,000 acre operations, good luck with the other 6,998 acres of crop.

I came up with this inspired idea after reading that Bayer Ag has made a proposal to buy Monsanto Co. for some crazy price of about $62 billion. Here I thought both companies were doing pretty well on their own. I figured if nothing else the aspirin business would keep the wolves away from Bayer’s door in perpetuity, and in this weed-weary world I don’t think anyone will ever stop needing Monsanto’s flagship product — Roundup herbicide.

It is a merger story like this that had me immediately running on a well-worn path to the “Boy-Am-I-Getting-Old” files. A couple things came to mind.

I remember as a kid in the 1960s watching a TV game show called “I’ve Got A Secret.” It was hosted by Garry Moore with a celebrity panel — most I never heard of before or after, although I always remember the glamorous Bess Myerson, the 1945 Miss America who was the best looking one of the bunch. The show usually featured some unknown guest and the panel, after a couple minutes of questioning, had to guess what their secret was.

For some reason I always remember the 1964 episode that featured 74-year-old Col. Harland Sanders who had developed a fried chicken recipe and he was there that night to show the world the jaw-dropping $2 million cheque he received for selling the recipe. That wasn’t his secret though, the secret concerned how he started the business and the answer was he started with a $105 social security cheque. But $2 million — holy man, that is like the most money in the world.

Here in the present

Well, fast forward 50 short years and $2 million is just slightly more than the cost of the family-size bucket feast at KFC — finger lickin’ good chicken, family-size fries, gravy, three sides, big bottle of pop… or so I’m told. (But back in the 60s I couldn’t even imagine that today KFC would ever have 20,000 restaurants and sales itself of about $32 billion — way more than I could compute. I don’t think the word “billion” had been invented yet.) My point is that I am still getting over the fact that the million-dollar days are gone, and now everything happens in billions. One ag chem company buying another and we’re talking $62 billion. I don’t think I have heard of any trillion-dollar deals yet, but that’s just a matter of time. The first will probably be Walmart rolling over one morning and buying Europe.

The other bit of “old” memories that got triggered, and led to my inspired new business venture was being hired as a kid by my dad to pull yellow Rocket (a mustard-family weed) out of the oat field. I think he paid me one cent per plant. I don’t know what my Grandpa got paid — probably double — come to think of it was probably Grandpa’s idea — get this lazy kid doing something. Dad rarely used a herbicide, likely because there weren’t many in those days and this yellow-flowered Rocket weed was plentiful and easy to find in a field of oats. So that’s how I made my first fortune. I don’t know if I made $5 or not, but what ever it was it was probably enough to cover my uncontrolled and impulsive spending at the Chesterville Fall Fair. A kid can never have too many pencil-thick, red, green or blue bamboo canes with some equally expensive toy attached to it with an elastic.

But I may need to rethink my 2016 hand rouging rates. Here we have a 152-year-old aspirin maker with about $52 billion annually in sales and 117,000 employees, looking to buy the mom-and-pop Monsanto, hanging its hat on one molecule, squeaking along with $15 billion in sales and only 25,000 employees and we’re talking about a $62 billion offer. With my skills and experience I may be selling my hand rouging talents short at $1 per square foot. Think big Lee — these are billion dollar days. So I’m going for $5 per square foot plus a bucket of chicken per week. That sounds fair to me. Now I’ll just sit tight and wait for the phone to ring. Daytime calls only please — its usually a “Law and Order” TV night.

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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