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Best of NAMA 2022

Name: Dean Oestreich
Title: President, Pioneer HiBred Int'l, Johnston, IA.
Education: University of Minnesota with a degree in agronomy
Responsibilities: Responsible for all the global operations of Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc.
Background: Joined Pioneer as a corn breeder in 1974. Has held leadership roles in information management, production operations, international sales operations and North American business operations before becoming president in January 2004.

AM: What are Pioneer's major new products and programs for the year?

DO: This is the most exciting time I have seen in the 30 plus years I have been in the seed business. We have six major initiatives underway.

First is the launch of a great new line of hybrids that combines some terrific genetics and traits. We are now at a different level in our R&D programs because of the combination of the two. Our priorities in the selection of varieties we will be making available to the marketplace are:

1) Yield,
2) Standability, and
3) Drydown.

Second is the launch of an ex-panded line of corn products with the Herculex traits, including Herculex RW Rootworm and Herculex XTRA.

Third is the pre-release of our family of traits that we have named Optimum and are proprietary to DuPont/Pioneer. Our first product will be Optimum GAT (Glyphosate/ALS Tolerant) for introduction in a few years. And we have many more in the pipeline.

Fourth, we are ramping up our low-linolenic line of soybeans in our partnership with Bunge.

Fifth, we are implementing new time saving programs that allow our people to spend more time with our customers and prospects.

And, sixth, as a customer service, we are introducing a new Field Information Tool (FIT) yield mapping service. In this new program, Pioneer representatives copy their customers' yield map data card and send the data to the Pioneer mapping center. Reports are prepared and presented back to the customers with their individual yield summaries and yield maps. Customers can use the information to evaluate hybrids, determine effects of soil nutrients, compare weed control options, and make many other important agronomic and management decisions.

AM: There has been a rash of seed companies purchased recently. How do you view this?

DO: There certainly have been quite a few consolidations. Frankly, though, I am not surprised. The deep, intense research that is required to be a participant in today's seed business cannot be done easily. And the result is the changes in ownership we have been seeing.

As far as Pioneer is concerned, we are always open to discussions with others and are open to considering making acquisitions.

AM: How do you measure the effectiveness of your company's communications?

DO: We need to have a strong voice in the marketplace on how we want to be viewed and that we are great people to do business with.

At the end of the day, we have to have our customers and prospects understand our message. Brand recognition and the number of "touches" we have with them is an important factor.

As president of Pioneer, I am obviously very proud of our brand. But we understand the brand is what our dealers and customers tell us what it is.

AM: How has the professional sales rep program worked out?

DO: We made the change from the typical seed dealer relationship nearly 10 years ago. And with any change, it took a while to get all of the kinks worked out. But now that we have, I have high regard for the system and the people in it.

We initially narrowed down our sales rep force to include only those people who shared our vision and would devote the time necessary to get our products placed correctly for the benefit of our customers. That remains our system.

Nearly 90 percent of our products are still handled by sales reps. However, we have seen an increase in the number of crop input retailers who are representing us. They are required to: 1) be exclusive to Pioneer seed, 2) have a specific person who is in charge of the seed business, and 3) be part of a system where Pioneer controls their seed inventory and terms.

AM: Looking ahead, how do you see the future of the seed business?

DO: There are some really terrific things happening in the farming business that will continue to have a positive impact on our business.

The growth of renewable fuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel, has me excited because of the impact it has on the demand for our customers' products.

Another is the additional value that we are now able to breed into our varieties to meet the new uses for our customers' crop. With such products as low-lin soybeans and our line of IndustrySelect corn hybrids, we can bring more return to our customers' seed investment. AM

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