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Name: Travis Dickinson
Title: Head of Marketing for the NAFTA Region
Career: Began his career with a Syngenta legacy company in 1986 in the production area and continued in various roles until transferring into product management and marketing in 1993.
Education: B.S. degree in chemical engineering, Louisiana State University.

AM: Please provide an overview of Syngenta Crop Protection. 

TD: Syngenta is the market-leading supplier of crop protection and seed care products in North America overall and in each of the constituent countries: Canada, Mexico and the U.S. We have a broad portfolio of herbicides, insecticides and fungicides which provide solutions to the majority of plant performance challenges our customers face.

Our go-to-market approach is 100% through and with channel partners at both the distributor and retail levels. We support our channel partners and their customers with the highest level of field coverage and product servicing in the industry. New product development and after-sales service are backed by a global research & development platform in which we have invested more than $2 million per day.

AM: What new products/programs will be introduced for the 2008 crop season?

TD: Pending federal and state regulatory approvals, Syngenta anticipates bringing several new technologies to the market for the 2008 season:

Revus brand fungicides - Contain the active ingredient mandipropamid.

Rynaxypyr combination brands - In an agreement between Syngenta and DuPont, Syngenta acquired an exclusive worldwide license to develop DuPont's new insecticide Rynaxypyr in mixtures with its own leading insect control products.

Prefix herbicide - Now registered as a more convenient, flexible premix formulation on soybeans.

Halex GT herbicide - A new herbicide specifically designed to improve glyphosate-tolerant (GT) corn production.

We intend to continue to support our channel partners with value-added offers and services. We will also continue to work with our seed brands (NK, Garst and Golden Harvest) in corn and soybeans to bring our genetics, traits, seed care and crop protection technologies together in premium performing combinations for our customers. 

AM: What are the current major challenges/

TD: The over-riding opportunity is to help our customers meet the challenges of unprecedented demand for crops supporting food, biofuel and textiles. The challenges to do this are myriad but three are top of mind. 

The first is how do we become better at supporting this growth through innovation by anticipating customer needs. This requires bringing the right technologies to market and maintaining the highest level of scientific integrity in our existing products and services.

The second challenge has to do with people. We need to continue to attract top young talent to our industry in the midst of low unemployment and the seemingly higher relative attractiveness of newer growth industries like finance and information technology.

Lastly, we need to create a more positive perception of the agricultural and crop protection industries. Does the public understand that around 40% of the world's crops would be lost without crop protection? 

AM: How has the industry changed in the past three years?

TD: There are fewer unmet needs in our industry as new technologies have covered many of the historical challenges to producing crops. That said, pest pressures are shifting and global climate change is expected to further pressurize the situation at the same time as food safety and quality are increasing in consumer importance.

Food safety and quality are issues increasingly near the top of the list of the public psyche, the unfortunate residual effect of some breakdowns in the systems which normally produce the safest, highest quality food in the world. This is not helped by the claims of the organic farming industry that conventional crops are somehow not as safe as those produced organically. We can address these issues in two ways: increasing diligence in food traceability and getting the message out there that conventional crops are equally (if not more) safe to produce and consume.

AM: What role does communications have in your marketing activities?

TD: Communications plays an increasingly important role in our marketing mix as we continue to work to properly position the broadest portfolio of products and technologies in the industry through clear, consistent brand messaging.  This is complicated by the continued fragmentation in the means by which our customers prefer to acquire information and the types of information important to them.

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