Like Iowa farmers, John Deere tries to power through ag industry downturn


Donnelle Eller, Des Moines Register

April 12, 2019


WATERLOO, Ia. These days, Loren Van Regenmorter is buying more used tractors than new, given the agricultural downturn that took hold five years ago.


But new business opportunities like chopping more alfalfa acres made a new 8370R tractor a possibility for the large northwest Iowa operation, the 62-year-old said during a tour of Deere & Co.'s Waterloo assembly operation.


Tractors and other equipment reduce the need for workers, always in short supply in rural Iowa. Larger farm equipment means "it takes fewer people to work the same number of acres," said Van Regenmorter, whose family runs cattle and hog operations in Sioux Center and is part owner of a dairy facility.


His family grows corn, soybeans and alfalfa on 15,000 acres in Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota.


"Farming isn't a 9-to-5 job, especially with livestock," said Van Regenmorter, who toured the Deere assembly plant with his son Travis, 32, and teenage grandsons Tate and Kaden.


Like Iowa farmers, the manufacturer based in Moline, Illinois, has powered through the ag downturn. Deere posted $2.4 billion in earnings last year, a 10 percent increase over 2017.


Deere has relied on its diverse portfolio to help during slowdowns. The company produces and finances machines to grow crops, harvest trees, build shopping malls and homes, and mow golf courses and lawns.


Ernie Goss, a Creighton University economist, said Deere has also been aided by international sales in Brazil, China and elsewhere, which offsets the U.S. downturn.


Plus, farmers still need seed, chemicals, tractors and combines to put in a crop, Goss said. Big suppliers, many of them merging like Bayer-Monsanto, have a lot of power to set prices.


"Even though farmers have cut back on their purchases, they still have a lot of corn" that needs to be planted and harvested, Goss said...