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Operating in more than 150 countries, Merial must continually adjust to accommodate differences in language, culture and the marketplace. For Merial Canada, the needs of the second-largest country in the world differ greatly from those of its southern neighbor.

"Canada is an important market globally for us," says Mike Hutton, Country Mgr of Merial Canada. "Canada is a big production animal market and has a strong agricultural economy. As one of the leading animal health companies in Canada, we work hard to make sure our products and services fulfill the needs of our customers. We are not a 'one size fits all.'"

Having worked for Merial in the United States before relocating to Canada, Hutton offers a unique perspective on the differences between the two countries. While the product offerings of Merial Canada are similar to that of the U.S., the importance of individual features of those products can differ. In Canada, he says, there are relatively more producers with smaller operations. And with quota-based systems in place, the emphasis is biased more to the quality of the end product than the quantity produced.

The Canadian regulatory process also generally takes much longer than in the United States, Hutton notes.

"Products tend to be launched in the U.S. market and may come to Canada up to years later," Hutton says. "There is a clear downside as we have to wait for the new products. However the silver lining to this extended review is that as we work with our colleagues in the United States, we can use their experiences to assist in our own decisions about everything from product use to marketing."

Another difference in the two animal health markets is the close relationship Merial develops with veterinarians. Merial Canada does not use distributors, and most products have to be prescribed directly from a veterinarian. This places a premium on those relationships to continue growth in Canada.

"In a recent production animal veterinarian survey, Merial has been rated top in its company profile, products and people," Hutton says. "We have the infrastructure to support new products as they are developed and continue serving the producers and veterinarians of Canada well."

by G. Eric Raby, VP Mktg, Massey Ferguson, North America
Canada is AGCO country from both the sales and heritage standpoints. The Massey Ferguson reputation for innovation in farm equipment goes back nearly 160 years to Canadian Daniel Massey, and the brand continues to be a favorite in the country today.

Gleaner is well established throughout the dealer network, and Hesston enjoys a solid following, especially in the western provinces. Fendt with its advanced technologies and Valtra with its reputation in the forest industry continue to expand their market bases.

Challenger and its network of CAT dealers are coming on fast as well. Just as in the U.S., Canadian Challenger dealers and their customers have been quick to embrace new technologies such as Auto-Guide and other precision farming technologies.

While the Canadian and U.S. markets share many similarities, we find Canadian farmers are very responsive to new ideas and often quicker to adopt new technologies, especially ones already introduced in Europe. We routinely get queries from Canadian customers who have learned of a new product on the Massey Ferguson Europe Web site and want to know when it will be offered in North America.

It is farmers in Canada and specifically Ontario, Quebec and east who were the first to embrace AGCO technologies such as the fuel saving, Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), independent front suspension and tractor management systems. At the same time, farmers in the western provinces have been leaders in adopting our Fieldstar yield monitoring system.

From a sales and marketing standpoint, Canada and our U.S. regions are all part of our North American market. AGCO product offerings are essentially the same with most emissions standards, transport lights and other safety requirements common to both countries. Of course there are monetary and legal differences that need to be addressed, which is why we have AGCO Canada Ltd., in Regina, Saskatchewan to handle finance, credit, billing and administer interest rates that reflect Canadian monetary policy. Regional parts facilities in both Ontario and Saskatchewan, as well as our main facility in Batavia, IL, guarantee fast parts support. We also employ a dedicated Canadian parts, service and sales field force to ensure we are staying close and in-tune to this important market.

Like the United States, Canada remains a key market for new products and new offerings in technology ... as it has since Daniel Massey started making implements in Newcastle, Ontario in 1847.

by Frank Campbell, Ontario Regional Mktg Dir
Cooperatives often realize they have a marketing advantage that others aspire to — community connection and ownership. The challenge is: How to continue to bring products and services at competitive costs, without losing touch with customers.

Regional cooperative Growmark, Inc. and several Ontario FS Cooperatives have created a solution to reduce administrative costs and share resources better. True to their principles, cooperatives have co-operated to form FS Partners GP, a management company owned by local co-op businesses and Growmark. What is unique about this arrangement is the regional (wholesaler) and local cooperatives (retailers) go to market together and share the risks and rewards of selling at the farm gate.

The new company is only just one year old, but the number of cooperatives and like-minded companies it manages has more than doubled.

"Cooperatives' boards of directors see the advantage of this business model," says Jaye Atkins, FS Partners CEO. "The local business maintains its identity and governance, but behind the scenes, FS Partners is handling accounts, credit management, and marketing."

Atkins mentions that FS Partners is also designed to help retain talent in a tough recruiting market. "Employees can be rooted in their communities, or move around in the organization as they wish — they see more options and choice."

Size and diversity also helps cooperatives moderate market ups and downs. Farmers in different parts of the province see low grain prices differently — depending on whether they are primarily feeding livestock or cash cropping or part of an ethanol production project. Ontario's agriculture is varied and its opportunities are vast.

Partnership with Growmark also provides stability, he adds. The cooperative, based in Illinois, with member-owners primarily in Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Ontario, has been in business for more than 75 years and sales top $2 billion. Growmark has a sterling reputation for its financial responsibility and Ontario farmers appreciate this.

A lot of work has been done by Growmark to create FS Partners, and it still has opportunities to pursue in acquisitions, marketing and promoting the FS brand, owned by Growmark. It's well worth the effort to maintain the "locally owned, globally strong" status.

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