Lance Petersen estimates he saved between 10% and 15% on his seed corn for 2019 by buying all of it online for his northern Minnesota farm. Over hundreds of corn acres, the savings quickly added up. The downside? Like many farmers, Petersen was unable to plant all his corn acres and now, after waiving the return option to the company, he has carryover for next season. But Petersen is undaunted and says the savings from buying online outweighs the risks.
Petersen offers the following four considerations for farmers who are interested in buying seed online but are apprehensive about how to do it successfully.
1. While you can go to online services to buy seed, he recommends contacting your local seedsman first. “Let him know you want to buy a high-quality seed product online with no expectation of any service from him, and in return, you want the lowest price,” he says. “For the seed salesman who gets the way I want to do business, they realize that long-term if they can make it work, I’m a guaranteed low-margin and low-service customer.”
2. Be professional but prepared to negotiate. “Instead of demanding a certain price, I’ve been willing to give up services and frills to arrive at a better price point,” he says. “Services we’ve waived include no returns, no switching products, no replant, no off-season direct ship or ProBox quantities.”
To increase your negotiating power, consider approaching like-minded neighbors and friends who also want to buy seed online at the best price.
“A retailer is going to be more interested in working with you when you say you represent 5,000 acres rather than 500,” Petersen explains.
3. Know about the products you want to buy. Petersen purchases seed from a national seed company and says he asks his seedsman for as much information on products that he will provide. “We want the variety ID number, the germination score and year it was produced,” he says. “If we go shopping in a store, we get to look at the date for how long milk is good for, so I think the information we’re asking for is fair.”
4. Have a plan in place if you experience a year like this one. “I’m thinking about building a small room inside my machinery shed that can be temperature controlled, so I can store the carryover seed at a stable temperature through the year,” Petersen says. Along with that, he plans to germ test the seed next spring prior to planting and will adjust his corn population rates accordingly. He says he has planted carryover seed in previous years (including 2019) without any stand establishment issues so far.