There was a time when most seed companies were local and family-owned. Today, global corporations dominate the seed business. As a result, family-owned, seed operations are facing some tough challenges. The Dow DuPont merger, the Syngenta buyout, and the proposed Monsanto Bayer merger are changing the nature of the seed business. How are small family companies surviving? Scott Beck, with Beck’s Hybrids, says the mega-mergers will not impact what they can offer their customers, “We have good relationships with all of the major suppliers and our agreements will move with them when they merge or are bought out.” He does not think the globalization of the seed industry will change what Beck’s is able to offer.
Sonny Beck, patriarch of the company, says the key to surviving is to stay true to your customers, “That is how we are going to be different; that is how we are going to survive.” He added, not being a public corporation, Beck’s does not have to listen to stockholders.
Yet, Beck’s has been looking more and more like a large national seed company. In 2013, the Atlanta, IN based firm began expanding into Ohio and, shortly thereafter, moved across the Mississippi River into Iowa. It recently opened a state-of-the-art hanger at the Indianapolis Executive Airport to house its company jets. Research and distribution facilities have been built in several states; and an agreement was reached with a California, biotech firm to help with research, biotech breeding, and innovation.
Another challenge is low grain prices that hurt the profits of their customers. Scott Beck says cutting seed prices is one option, “We understand what our farmers are going through, and we are conscious of that when we price our seed.” He added Beck’s Practical Farm Research program also helps provide growers with the information they need to maximize their production while reducing their costs, “We have done things this year to help farmers reduce the overall cost of their production.”
Sonny Beck has seen several downturns in the farm economy and believes, “It will come back. We just don’t know how long it will take.” Company officials continue to be upbeat and optimistic about the future of agriculture and of the company.