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VIEW FROM THE TOP
FMC USES SIZE TO ITS ADVANTAGE
Editor's Note: Larry Hatfield is North America area director for FMC and has been with the Agricultural Products Group for 21 years. FMC, Philadelphia, is a highly focused, multinational chemical company with market-leading businesses in Agricultural Products, Specialty Chemicals and Industrial Chemicals.

AM: I recently heard an industry veteran refer to the FMC leadership team as "experts in guerrilla marketing." How does "guerrilla marketing" relate to staying alive in an industry of mega-competitors and ongoing consolidation?


LH:
We are fortunate to have a group of very seasoned and experienced veterans on the FMC leadership team. Like any battle-hardened team, ours has experienced a variety of successful market and product challenges. And because we are not the biggest player in the industry, we have, out of necessity, had to develop and utilize unconventional approaches to developing our marketing strategies. We try to utilize our smaller size as a competitive advantage, in the form of flexibility and speed in meeting our customers' needs and providing solutions in a very dynamic market. Our philosophy is to deliver value to our customer in ways that make a difference to them and our shareholders. We are not so much interested in reading our own press clippings. We believe that our strategy of "focused innovator" will allow us to not only stay alive but also thrive among the mega-mergers.

AM: How would you describe FMC's attitude toward crop protection retailers?

LH:
FMC has always focused on our channel partners as the key to our success, and we want to continue to be a consistent, reliable supplier of quality products that provide value to the channel and to the grower. Retailers are an important part of that, and we anticipate that they will continue to be as we move forward.

AM: What is FMC's long-term strategy for growth and profitability in a biotech world - for example, as biotech corn with genetic resistance to rootworms hits the market? Does FMC have any strategic partnerships in this area?

LH:
Biotechnology is just one of many new technologies emerging in our industry. These tools will not be the answer to all the pest problems that face our customers. The impact of these new tools has caused and will continue to cause changes in pest dynamics. This will create new challenges to growers, such as insects that were once considered to be a secondary problem becoming a primary problem, as we have seen with the advent of Bt cotton. FMC has been very active in utilizing traditional strategic partners as well as some innovative, nontraditional partners, i.e. John Deere, in approaching these issues. However, this will require that we continuously explore new ways to utilize our traditional technology and develop novel new chemistry to ensure that alternatives are available to solve pest problems.

While the more visible applications of biotechnology in our industry have been on the crop input side, FMC is one of the leading companies utilizing biotechnology on the front end, i.e. in our insecticide discovery program.

AM: What types of interesting new products does FMC have in its R&D pipeline?

LH:
The utilization of biotechnology in our discovery program is producing some very exciting new insecticide technology that will result in less toxic, highly efficacious insecticides that FMC will be developing over the next few years. Until these products are brought to market, we are working with several multinational companies to develop new insecticide technology. One such example is flonicamid from ISK, which FMC has exclusive access to develop in North America. Flonicamid is particularly effective on sucking insects and recently received OP replacement status from EPA for an expedited review.

AM: One would assume that you are optimistic about FMC's future in the crop protection industry. What are the bright spots? Potential downsides?

LH:
While our industry is going through continued challenges, FMC is very optimistic about our future because we anticipated these changes and have adapted accordingly. We believe our combination of focused innovator strategy; a veteran leadership team; ability to adapt, change and move quickly; and desire to add value to our customers will result in a successful future for FMC. Change will continue to be inevitable, and we must learn to embrace it - this could be a downside if we fail to do so. I am confident that, based upon our ability to adapt to change in the past, we will do so in the future. The bright spot is that we believe our strategy is working, based upon the strong performance recorded last year. AM


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