Farmers have the food that consumers want to eat. All the steps that facilitate getting food to it ultimate destination comprise agricultural marketing. As you can imagine, there are many steps in this process, including:
- farm planning
- crop growing
- inspection and grading
- packing and transport
There are many players in addition to the farmers, including intermediaries involved in moving agricultural products from one stage to the next. For instance, large agricultural mega-companies find and negotiate contracts with farmers to have them plant a specific seed. Farm brokers bring farmers and processors together. This is important because many farmers have specific requirements as to what they will plant and how they will grow it. Some farmers employ organic techniques, others use genetically modified seeds, still others eschew the use of pesticides or fertilizers. A farm broker helps farmers connect with buyers who are interested in particular output.
U.S. farmers receive marketing support from the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). The AMS provides market news and monitors market agreements and orders. They provide testing, grading and standardization, and enforce certain laws as well.
Today’s modern farmers are often college graduates, and agriculture majors are required to take marketing courses appropriate to their future careers. There they learn the fundamentals of marketing, finance, and economics within an agricultural context. Fraternities like AGR provide significant support to agriculture students who join.
Agriculture in the U.S. is a partnership between the private and public sectors. One important component is the program of price supports the U.S. government offers for various agricultural products like milk and sugar. Food stamp programs not only feed the poor, but they stimulate demand as well. Both sectors help support a marketing infrastructure that encompasses wholesale, assembly and retail markets and includes storage and transportation capabilities. Trucks, aviation, rail and ships all participate in moving agriculture products to their destinations.
Financial futures market function to provide price assurance to producers and processors of food and other agricultural products. A futures contract allows a farmer to lock in a selling price for his crop well in advance of harvest, independent of spot prices. The same contract helps a food processor plan purchases and production schedules. Advertising helps stimulate demand – witness the “Got Milk?” campaign that has been enormously successful in raising milk’s profile. Farmers today must accept that marketing is as important as planting and harvesting; all are activities that allow a farmer to make a living from the fruits of his or her own labor.