Farmers Business Network is often described as being a LinkedIn for farmers. It has pulled in over $200 million in total funding since the concept was created, with over $110 million in Series D funding in recent months. The plan for the company is to use the money to add strength to their e-commerce leg. This option allows the ability of members to purchase products such as various crop care items or new technologies at a substantially lower price.
This benefit would include access to common fungicides and herbicides that make it possible to generate a more consistent crop. Marketing options that connect farmers with possible buyers are part of this business network as well. Farmers get to share data, bargain for better pricing, and ask source questions in ways that were not possible on the individual level before this option.
The number of farmers under the age of 35 recently rose for only the second time since 2000. Farmers Business Network is a product of the next generation of producers that will help to reinforce the security of the food supply chain. With access to environmentally friendly tools that can grow the local food movement, the pros and cons of this association can help to patch up some of the financial problems the industry has experienced in recent years.
List of the Pros of Farmers Business Network
1. Farmers Business Network makes it easy to purchase inputs.
When farmers work with FBN, then they have access to nationwide pricing instead of the regional schemes that exist for many crops and farm products. That means there are no zones, no haggling, and no rebates. Pricing is transparent from start to finish. Then farmers get to work directly with suppliers and manufacturers to keep costs low since there are fewer middlemen in the way. Inputs can be ordered online or through a mobile app. Then the items can go to the farm or be picked up at a local warehouse.
2. There are several distribution centers across the United States.
Most farmers have a distribution center for inputs that is quickly available to meet whatever in-season needs they might have. Although a majority of the locations are in the Midwest, there are two locations in Ohio to serve the northeast, one in Mississippi for the southeast, and sites in Royal City, WA, and Fresno, CA to serve the west coast. This structure effectively eliminates the lack of fairness found in input purchasing in the past.
3. It only takes one input invoice to unlock all your data.
Once you become a member of the Farmers Business Network, you only need to submit a single input invoice. This action will unlock all of the seed and chemical pricing information that is available to you. That means you’ll get to see the variation in cost between vendors, making it easier to find the best possible price for your inventory. If you have several years of financial information to track, then spending a year with FBN can help you to target specific areas where there are places to catch some savings.
Most farmers will save enough money to at least get their membership expenses back over 12 months. There are usually first-time customer rebates that will encourage some extra savings as well.
4. You can use the pricing information to create local leverage.
When you have access to solid pricing data as a farmer, then you can use that information to leverage local costs from your usual suppliers. Most businesses will attempt to match what you can receive from someone else as a way to keep your revenues. This advantage may not always apply, especially if your local seller can’t lower prices since they have their own margins to manage, but it can be a way to keep your money local while getting a return from your FBN membership throughout the year.
5. Marketing tools make it easier to sell cash crops.
The crop marketing component of an FBN membership makes it easier to follow through with smarter decisions when selling your cash crops. You’ll receive plenty of information and advice that can help you get in contact with those who are ready to buy. Farmers also receive access to spot bids and production contracts for IP grains and pulse crops. When you combine this advantage to the financial help that is available, it is easy to see when this platform is often described as being farmer-friendly with its overall terms.
6. You will have access to millions of acres of data.
Farmers Business Network allows its members to tap into millions of acres of data that encompass thousands of fields in the United States. It provides a scale of information that was never available to the agricultural industry in the past. That makes it easier to start farming with confidence because you can find access to best practices and products that can increase yields and profits immediately.
Some farmers might benefit more than others based on the size of their facility, the growing climate, or their crop preference. With the transparency that comes with this membership, it is much easier to manage required tasks while leveraging local data to create profound results.
7. There are over 60 types of precision software available.
The analytics from Farmers Business Network can work with dozens of different crops. Your membership will help you to integrate over 60 types of precision software, making it easier to select your seed varieties or optimize your nitrogen application rates. By creating an independent network that is data-driven by fellow farmers and real competitors, the independent family farm doesn’t need to be on the endangered species list anymore. FBN makes it easier to create better outcomes for all food consumers.
8. Farmers have access to group health insurance through FBN.
Farmers Business Network provides its members with an affordable solution for their group health coverage. This option is available through FBN Health. Farmers can receive lower-cost health coverage while providing more freedom of choice – including any farm employees you might have on your land. Key features include care coordination, disease management, and integrated wellness. If you want to explore more of this advantage, then you can contact Medova Healthcare Financial Group at 1 (800) 483-6214 or visit fbnhealth.com for additional information about availability, features, and costs. It is not free with membership, and this advantage is only available in locations where Medova has licensing availability.
9. FBN hosts networking events each year.
FBN hosts an annual conference called Farmer2Farmer in Omaha, NE each December. This gathering gives farmers an opportunity to share their experiences with each other while participating in group discussions about what the future of farming will be. There are seasonal training clinics and crop marketing seminars that Farmers Business Network hosts across the country as well. Although this advantage may not be available to everyone based on the geographic location of their land, access to updated information from these get-togethers can maximize the cost of your membership.
List of the Cons of Farmers Business Network
1. You must provide personal information to get started.
Farmers Business Network might provide a number of benefits to those involved with agricultural work, but it is still a company that tries to make money. You are going to need to fill out some personal information to begin taking advantage of the potential benefits that they could provide. That means you’ll need to give them your name, email address, and cell phone number to see if the available services can meet your needs. Doing so will give them permission to contact you by text or via calls about the services and offers which are available through FBN. You’ll also work with agencies like Sharda USA LLC, Bayer CropScience, and ADAMA with their opportunities, so it may not be suitable for some organic farming needs.
2. Credit applications may be necessary for some items.
If you start working with Farmers Business Network, then you may need to fill out a credit application to manage the funding for the items you need. As of August 2019, FBN offers members who complete a qualifying credit application to receive extended terms that offer a 4.5% annual interest rate charge for balances carried through December 1.
3. You will be paying a subscription fee to join the organization.
If you want to join Farmers Business Network, then you will pay a flat fee of $700 per year to access their services. There are no acreage fees or “hidden agendas” with this expense, but it can be enough to drive some farmers away from this association. When times are tough, the small family farm must cut the excessive costs – and as one person stated on New AgTalk, the fees from FBN are the same amount as another roll of tile. You’ll still receive soil type info and recommendations for what you have on your farm. If you don’t need that data organized, then the expense might not be right for you.
4. Farmers are giving their data away for this information.
There is a lot of skepticism about Farmers Business Network in the agricultural community because their services are seen as a data grab. There are certainly cost benefits to enjoy with this service, but you must send in information about your property to obtain it. You’re also paying FBN for the rights to access pricing schemes, which means you get hit with a double cost. Selling aggregated data to other people to create services or market products to you means that you could end up with a flurry of sales calls to manage.
If you live in a place where the soil maps are unreliable anyway (like South Dakota), then the expense may not provide you with anything you didn’t already know anyway.
5. There are limited regions of support currently available for FBN.
Although Farmers Business Network can work in any region on all major crops for American farmers, the membership currently includes 31 states in dry-land and irrigated settings. Most of the farming activities take place in Minnesota, Illinois, and around their hub in Iowa. Global access to data is somewhat limited right now, including information coming from the border provinces in Canada.
Farmers can create an agronomic data cluster in a single meeting with neighbors, but it does require a handful of participating farms to maximize the benefits of membership.
6. The data you receive from FBN can sometimes create skewed results.
A lot of the information provided by Farmers Business Network involves several years’ worth of data for you to sift through. If your primary concern is yield-based, then you can maximize the value of this membership rather easily. Comparing prices for seeds and chemicals over this time can provide you with skewed results. If you were to compare your price in 2018 with what everyone else paid in 2014, it might make the expense seem more competitive than it really was for you. The data sets you receive must be reviewed with a grain of salt to make sure they are worthwhile.
7. It forces farmers to rely on software recommendations.
The seed recommendations that you receive from Farmers Business Network are based on the compiled harvest maps that others in your area have submitted to FBN in the first place. Some farmers struggle to trust the recommendations of software because it removes the tangible nature of the work from the equation. There are times when knowing the weather and your soil is more essential than understanding what the competition around you is experiencing with their harvests. That’s why many farmers tend to use this information as one of several data points that they consider.
8. Membership costs have gone up dramatically.
Even with the increase in funding that FBN received in recent years, the cost of membership for a farmer is skyrocketing. Since 2016, the cost of getting the big data that you might find to be useful has risen by $300. Then there are the costs of purchasing items directly from the network if that is your preference. Sometimes seeing if the local guy is competitive is not worth the price of the membership.
The pros and cons of Farmers Business Network are worth considering if you want to maximize the potential of your harvest or yields. It may not be the right investment for every farmer, especially if you live outside one of their coverage zones. If you don’t mind giving up some of your personal information, what you receive in return could help you to save plenty of money each year.
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