Who is the most trusted ag advisor of them all? It’s a question I think we’ve all heard before, mind you without the Disney flare added to it. That question raises plenty of different viewpoints and positions when it comes to the right answer. So, to get to the bottom of it all, let’s look at each type of trusted provider in agriculture and see were things go. I’ll score them 1-10, with 10 being the most trusted ag advisor. These are my opinions, but I’m sure you’ll have your own.
Seed Dealer – Well, the crop has to start somewhere, right? A seed dealer is at the forefront and provides a service that is crucial to the yield and outlook of the crop, but is he the most trusted? Considering there are thousands of different companies, varieties, crop types, and regions throughout the country, this one would be tough to score high. Many growers have multiple seed dealers, too, so I’d rate this one on the low end with a 3.
Crop Consultant/Agronomist – This one surely is important. Many growers rely on their agronomist or consultant on what to spray, seed, or fertilize, plus sometimes much, much more. There are multiple types of consultants/agronomists, too. You have some that are independent, while others that come from groups. Some work with different ag retailers or seed dealers, while some sell other things, provide precision ag advice or equipment, and the list goes on and on. This group is the most dynamic in my opinion. Many times, they can make or break a farm based on the advice they give. While this can make them the most trusted, it also provides the chance of having the worst impact to the bottom line. This one is tough to judge, but still very important, so it demands an 8.
Financial Advisor/Banker – Surely, knowing how much someone is worth is worth a lot. It does provide the need to know what people are doing with their money. That is usually on the upper end of the spectrum for sure, or is it? Many times, the banker or financial guru doesn’t see the most detailed picture but more of an overview. Let’s not forget that many people have multiple different financial groups they deal with, and for a variety of reasons, too. Most bankers don’t really get into the direct everyday management of the farm and operation, but need to see that there is a good plan while needing trust from the grower that they’ll pay them back. This requires an open conversation — which does involve trust — but it’s just not enough to be the most trusted from my point of view. This type is up there, but not quite all the way. I give it a 7.
Accountant – Much like the above group, this one requires the need to see what the grower actually made legally for taxes. Naturally, that is a pretty big deal. Having a good accountant in agriculture can make or break the farm in multiple ways. It requires a keen eye and a trusted sense of keeping all information away from others that don’t require it. This is great, but not enough to be at the top. Like with the financial advisor/banker, the accountant doesn’t really see the detail on the farm and what makes the grower tick. They do a lot and need to be rated high, but due to their nature of dealing with more than just the ag industry, they get placed on the lower end. I give them a 4.
Grain Marketer – There are a few ways you can look at this one. For instance, many times the grain marketer is the farmer themselves. In all reality, they should be their own most trusted advisor. Of course, that is not exactly where I was going with this. Selling grain and knowing exactly how much grain the grower has at times requires at huge level of confidence and knowledge. You don’t get paid on pure hard work. You’re paid on what the hard work grows into and what it is worth. To many, this requires a very trusted person since they are crucial in what you make at the end of the day. Although seeing as how this one is not as common as some of the others, I can’t score it too high. Also, since the grower is basically this person many times, I can’t count them. I’ll give them a 3.
Equipment Dealer – I had to include this one, but I can’t put too much on it today. Sure, there are some dealers that need to know your financials, provide services like the others, and can be critical in fixing the equipment you have, but are they the most trusted? I’d base the trust on a regional situation, and also the brand. With that being said, growers really are not trusting an individual advisor but usually more of a group out of necessity. Growers need to trust this group, but they have options if the local one doesn’t do it for them. They just might have to travel a little further, order online, or make a call to someone else. This one must be rated lower considering most cases. I don’t want to put this category down though, because many growers are relying on this type more and more with the technology needs of modern equipment. It’s a solid 2, 3 if you’re picky…for now.
Ag Retailer – This one is very tricky. There are so many different types of ag retailers out there, and they can include every part of the above groups I mentioned and more. Sometimes they know everything, and need to, so the grower can grow a crop and be profitable. Sometimes they are just there to sell the most seed, chemical, and fertilizer. I could most likely write a book on this one for obvious reasons. This type of advisor is way too local to put a pure solid number to it, so I’m not sure where to go from here. They can be the most or least trusted depending on a number of factors, and growers can work with a variety of them at the same time. Of course, there is a good chance that a large margin of ag retailers might read this, too, so what to do, what to do…I’m going to just even it out here with a 5. Tough but fair.
Precision Ag Advisor – I better be careful here, right? I’m also semi impartial to this group since I do consider myself one. Digging down further, it is clear that there is a lot of talk about data privacy and the trust needed to handle precision ag data from the farm. While true, where are we with our precision ag advisor? Like other groups, this one can be part of the many others above be it seed, ag retail, equipment dealer, or agronomist/consultant. It can also be all by itself. Even now, this group can come in the form of a software or algorithm if you look at it from a certain point of view. Precision ag advisors may have to know every single aspect of the farm or field to make it all work, so they are pretty important. This makes sense since it is definitely a topic at many of the events we all seem to be a part of these days. If you look at where the ag industry is going, I think you have to score this category high due to all the various factors. At the same time, depending on how this advisor is connected to the other groups will determine how you feel, not to mention growers can have many different advisors or even just a computer. Since most rely on humans…now, I’ll give this growing, yet complex group a 7.
Crop Insurance Agent – So I bet many would not have guessed this one. When it comes down to it though, the crop insurance agent is unique in all aspects of the equation. Almost all the time, the grower has only one agent that handles their insurance risk. Be it land, crops, equipment, homes, cars, or other possessions, the crop insurance agent usually takes it all. They know exactly what they grow, where, what it yields, and what they are protected for, so basically the total value. They manage all of the risk, which when it comes down to it is incredibly important. Especially now! Not only this, many are connected to financial advisement, grain marketing, accounting, and banking adding even more levels of trust. Many are also venturing into other services such as precision ag and agronomic consulting services. Crop insurance agents are some of the most highly respected, trusted, and powerful individuals in smaller communities, and from my experience, they usually don’t do too bad for themselves financially. Combine this with the fact that they have to be trusted with the grower’s information or else the government will become a difficult one to deal with. When everything is put together, the crop insurance agent is the most trusted advisor in my opinion. I do talk and work with many of them on a daily basis, which might make me bias, but I also know and have worked with all the others. So, if I must put a number to this one, I say a 9.
In conclusion, there really is no perfect answer. Everyone has different situations and knows the many groups and individuals in many different and complex ways. Also, if I missed a certain type of advisor, I apologize, they come in many forms. If you really want to know who is the most trusted advisor though, I hope for your sake you look at someone’s spouse and family for this one. Most of the time it’s fairly hard to just find another one to replace them, right? So, all in all I give them a 10 and the advisor the growers trust the most.