Soybean seed suppliers aren't taking the reduction in acreage lying down. “We've been strongly enhancing our breeding program, and we see areas where there are big opportunities to make market share gains,” Scharingson says. “In a flat or diminishing market, we plan to aggressively go after soybean acres.”
Pioneer's Schafer says the company remains committed to soybeans and will work hard to stay on the farm. “We are able to offer a full portfolio of corn and soybean products to producers,” he says. “And while we are able to capture market share for corn, we also want to ensure our soybeans remain on every acre.”
At Latham Seeds, its focus remains on providing the best varieties. “We will continue to focus on soybeans and work harder than ever to bring the highest-yielding, best defensive traits to market so we can be at a competitive edge,” Sopher says. “It's going to be tough, but it's been tough everywhere for the past several years to make money on soybean seed. Next year will be no exception, although the pressures will be greater.”
With the dynamics set in place for 2008, does that mean a significant price war to ensure market share? Perhaps, but seed companies stress that maintaining a quality product and delivering service to the customer will remain paramount. “In a shrinking market, it's even more imperative to show your value to the customer,” says Tom Schaefer, U.S. soybean marketing manager for Asgrow. “We will have the normal trade discounts and programs that we've always offered.”
Syngenta has been heavily marketing its AgriEdge program, which offers producers a premium for using a portfolio of the company's products.
One area that does offer opportunities for increased premiums is the value-added soybean products for food and industrial applications. But those seeking identity-preserved soybeans are also competing against corn acres. “I tell producers that if you're planting more corn, at least plant some Vistive low-linolenic soybeans to get the extra $0.60/bu.,” Sopher says.
The commitment to soybeans will remain. “Farmers are comfortable with soybeans and how to grow them. They like it as a crop,” Thompson says. “Soybeans are still a good crop that's fairly weather resistant and can be grown in areas that are less conducive to corn.”