"The FARMSMART Podcast": Episode 47

Posted February 08, 2024 | By: Nutrien Ag Solutions

How Indiana Soybean Farmers Are Benefitting From Our New Sustainability Practices Incentive Program, with Danny Carmony Jr.

In the heart of soybean country, you'll find Indiana farmers who have been utilizing sustainable best practices since long before it was called "sustainability."

But a new Nutrien Ag Solutions incentive program with Bunge is making it possible for these growers to actually be compensated for these practices. And that's changing the game, both in terms of environmental impact AND the bottom line.

Danny Carmony Jr. is the division manager of Central Indiana for Nutrien Ag Solutions, and a back-to-back Dean Albrecht Award winner, an honor bestowed upon the manager of Nutrien Ag Solutions' top-performing division each year.

And in this episode, he joins us to discuss the unique challenges and opportunities for growers in the central Indiana region, including its diverse geography and soil types.

He'll also highlight the successes of the Bunge sustainable soybean program, discuss how it's affecting the implementation of sustainability practices like cover crops and no-till, and explore how offerings like Agrible make it easier than ever before to collect and leverage ag data.

Visit this link to learn more about the sustainable soybean program:

https://viewer.joomag.com/bunge-sustainable-soybean-program-sky-final/0749223001699469844

And visit agrible.com to check your eligibility.

Episode Transcript

Danny Carmony

And we talk about sustainability… I say it’s more of a buzzword today. But we’ve got people that have been doing those right practices for a long time. And I always believe that 95 to 99 percent of our farmers are the best stewards of their ground. I’ve got pockets in Southeast Indiana that have been doing cover crops for 25, 30 years.  

 

Dusty Weis

Welcome to the FARMSMART Podcast, presented by Nutrien Ag Solutions, where every month, we’re talking to sustainable agriculture experts from throughout the industry. 

As the leading source of insight for growers on evolving their sustainability practices while staying grounded in agronomic proof, FARMSMART is where sustainability meets opportunity. 

 

Sally Flis

We don’t just talk change – we're out in the field, helping you identify the products, practices, and technologies that bring the future to your fields, faster. 

I’m Dr. Sally Flis, Director of Sustainable Ag Program Design and Outcome Management.

 

Dusty Weis

And I’m Dusty Weis, and we're joined now by Danny Carmony Jr., division manager of Central Indiana at Nutrien Ag Solutions. Danny, thanks for joining us today. 

 

Danny Carmony

Thanks for having me. 

 

Dusty Weis 

So Danny, to get us kicked off, could you tell us a little bit about your background, your role at Nutrien Ag Solutions, and the geography that you tend to out there in Indiana? 

 

Danny Carmony 

Yes sir, I'm responsible for Central Indiana Division, which encompasses most of Indiana, except for the southwest part of the state and a little corner of the northeast section of Indiana that goes to another division.  

My role is General Manager and I get to work with 28 locations across that geography. Been with Nutrien Ag Solutions, I think 24 years, working on 24 years,+ and been in this role since 2011.

 

Dusty Weis

Now, Danny, when you drive across Indiana, and I have a number of times, heading down I-65 there to Indianapolis and on to Louisville, first thing that strikes you is, holy cow, this is a big state.  

But in addition to just big and flat, you're still looking at a lot of different kinds of geography, a lot of different kinds of soil type and all of that. And so, when you look at that geography that your team supports, are there any unique challenges that your team is tasked with mitigating?

 

Danny Carmony

I wouldn't say there's anything more out of line than other geographies. As you mentioned, it is a diverse geography. In Northwest Indiana you kind of resemble more of Illinois type soils. And as you move to the East across the Northern part of Indiana, you get into more clay and as you come South as well, so you got a very wide variety of different soil types. And it's not all flat here.  

You get in Southern Indiana, south of I-70 and start creeping, you know, towards Kentucky. There is some, some hills and hollers and a few spots there, but, we got some really good dirt, you know, very good productive dirt. You got some, some soils that you have to manage and, and you can unlock and grow potential in some of those areas where, you know, that in the north, maybe you got that foot of topsoil that works out pretty good planting crops. 

So, I'm biased. I'm from here, been here a long time. I think agriculture in Indiana, we have to work at it to have good crops and that's what makes our people so special that work for us. 

 

Sally Flis

Danny, I got to be with you recently when you won division of the year for North America for Nutrien Ag Solutions for the second year in a row. What are some of the keys and things that you've focused on over the last two years to be that successful within the company? 

 

Danny Carmony

Well, I'd like to tell you that there is some secret or a silver bullet to that, but there really isn't. I mean, I've got a great team that I work with in my division, but I've got fantastic folks that are in the field that are selling, applicating, billing, all those things.  

And I try to keep it simple, people enjoy being treated as humans. And we love and encourage each other and we support our locations and their endeavors. We give them the opportunity to be entrepreneurs and let them make decisions. 

And with the end all being that we're going to increase productivity for our grower customers. If we don't do that, we're never going to win anything because they have to make money for us to be successful. 

 

Sally Flis

In addition to that, you're also a part of our Bunge Sustainable Soybean program that we launched last year across Indiana, Ohio and Iowa.  

And your team came to meet with us at one of the Bunge Plants in Indiana and just super excited about being a part of that, which is great to see and just want to talk through that a little bit, you know, why are you guys excited? What do you see as the opportunities there? And how are growers responding in the field as you bring them opportunities like this one we have with Bunge?

 

Danny Carmony

Well, first off, I appreciate your help and support and getting that going for us. That's very important. And any time that we have the opportunity to provide growers with new revenue streams. That's what we have to do. That's what we need to do.  

And we talk about sustainability, I say it's more of a buzzword today, but we've got people that have been doing those right practices for a long time. And I always believe that 95 to 99% of our farmers are the best stewards of their ground of what we have the opportunity to try to farm, not just Indiana, but everywhere. 

And so the Bunge program was an excitement for us because we've had, I've got pockets in Southeast Indiana that's been doing cover crops for 25, 30 years. That practice was already taken off. I got a very good location around Brookville, Indiana.  

I got a great salesman there named Mark McLean that, he's been pushing cover crops since I started, I said, 24 years ago, when I started in the sales, he's one of the first people I looked up to as far as doing things right for customers. And he was big into cover crops. And back then I looked at it like, man, this guy's crazy. What's he talking about putting cover crops out? 

And you know, in the Southern part of the state, no-tilling has become common practice. Back 20, 25 years ago, it wasn't quite there yet. There's just a few people getting on board with just no tilling. So a lot of the practices that we have in place, I look forward to hopefully rewarding those folks for what they've been doing for a long time.  

And with this program, I think we got new practices, obviously it's important, but I think we can also have an opportunity to invest in those growers that have been doing right for a long time.

 

Dusty Weis

Now, Sally, the program with Bunge, I know, is something that you worked on really, really hard to get that over the finish line there, but maybe can we recap just a little bit how do growers in certain parts of the country stand to benefit from that partnership with Bunge that Nutrien Ag Solutions has put together? 

 

Sally Flis

For sure, Dusty. So that program is designed to help us bring lower carbon intensity beans or carbon insets to Bunge and their downstream. So as we work in Iowa, we're really looking at that carbon intensity biofuel space and how do we impact that.  

But in Indiana and Ohio, we're working on that inset piece. How do we carry that carbon footprint down to the end user, to that product that sits on the shelf in the grocery store?

You know, what I'm excited about in some of these opportunities is in the meal side of that processing, we're taking it to chicken feed or we're taking it to dairy feed. So how do we track that through the animal feed side of things and really start to build these supply chains out to, like you say, Danny, bring more value back to the grower because all these players want to make claims on sustainability and carbon.  

So there's opportunities for growers to sign up in some specific geographies and we can share the sheets for the different geographies in the notes for the episode as to where growers are eligible. Danny, I wanted to circle back to your new practices. What are some of the opportunities you guys have found for combinations of products, tools, practices as you look at those new acres to get engaged in sustainability in a Bunge program?

 

Danny Carmony

Yeah. So the new acres, obviously, if they're not no tilling or not using cover crop, that's an easy thing, but we got a lot of products in our lineup that we can use in crop to A) support the crop and B) qualify for the sustainability side of it.  

The thing I'm excited about is we've tested, we’ve used these products. We are seeing benefits for our grower customers already with them. So now we've got a great excuse to go out and say, “Hey, let's do the right thing on the sustainability side.”

Also, you're going to use these products that are going to be good for your farm, good for your crops and A) put more money in the bank from a from a yield perspective and then, and then B) hopefully enhance their revenue stream with sustainability programs like this one. 

 

Dusty Weis

Danny, you had mentioned earlier that you see a lot of the no-till and cover crop practices having been adapted for a long, long time in the southern part of Indiana. You also mentioned that that's where you see some hillier geography, some hollers, I think you called them.  

Are those two things interlinked or what is it about the southern part of Indiana that makes these practices so much more attractive to growers down there, even before a program like Nutrien Ag Solutions has built with Bunge came along.

 

Danny Carmony

The soil type is different. Like I said, kind of once you get to south of I-70, it's different. Even, even east of I-69 in Indiana, you know, it changes quite a bit. And what you've seen with no-till practices over many years, your soil gets tight, cover crops help you on a soil till situation where you can get roots down deeper and things.  

So those, those are kind of why some folks, yeah, there is some watershed issues. There's also when you got hilly, rolly ground, you keep erosion from happening on those fields so you don't have to spend time in the spring working ground where the water ran across it all winter and created little valleys or, or rips in the field that you got to clean up. 

So, and, you know, we've been talking about the weather. We always talk about weather in our industry. We talked about the snow last week in some areas and rain in our area the last couple of weeks.  

And when we get that rain, you know, if you got cover crop in place, a lot of times you'll see your water go into the ground as opposed to ponding, creating ponds in your fields. And instead of big wet holes out there, you have what looks like normal watershed on ground.

 

Sally Flis

So Danny, you mentioned weather, which we always know is a challenge in agriculture. Snow, rain, lack of snow or rain. You guys get hit with some pretty bizarre weather being close to the Great Lakes, much like I am at my house.  

What are in general some of the things that you guys keep an eye out for as you’re getting to this time of year knowing that you're, you know, six, eight, twelve weeks from guys wanting to get out in the field. 

What are some of the things you guys start to monitor and think about and have discussions with growers on given the winter we've had so far? 

 

Danny Carmony 

Well, the big thing is how much water have we gotten or not received across the geography. This year, we're talking about how much water we need to kind of catch up from a very dry fall. And the last growing season, we were pretty well dry.  

We had some rains that saved our crop, sort of to speak there at the end, kind of gives our top-end yield. But we were at a deficit for water up until that point. And then we went several months in the fall with very little precipitation. 

So that's one thing we're looking at. The next thing we'll be looking at what the outlook is on the weather side from temperature and such. You know, we're talking about unseasonably warm here in the coming weeks. There may be opportunity for some application opportunities in the fields.  

There may be some growers, you know, when we start outfitting them with some equipment for their starter programs and stuff, sometimes we get a little urgency behind that. We need to make sure they're getting that stuff done because you're right, it could be six or eight weeks and the planters could be flying. 

I think we've seen the last couple of years across, not just Indiana, and other geographies where soybeans in particular have been going in the ground a lot earlier than what we, especially than what grandpa or dad used to do, right? That beans were after corn. Now we're planting beans earlier.  

So we're trying to make sure our soybeans are staged. We're trying to make sure the products that we support the soybean crop with are staged, which is a total kind of flipping paradigm from the previous, you know, history of farming. So those are kind of some of the things that we're focused on as we sit today.

 

Dusty Weis 

Well, Danny, we've covered a lot of ground here in the first part of the conversation, but coming up to the second part, we want to go a little bit deeper on that intersection between retail and sustainability practices. We'll be back with more from Danny Carmony Jr. in a moment here on the FARMSMART Podcast.  

 

Dusty Weis

This is the FARMSMART Podcast, presented by Nutrien Ag Solutions. I'm Dusty Weis along with Sally Flis, and we're talking today with Danny Carmony Jr., Division Manager for Central Indiana at Nutrien Ag Solutions.  

And Danny, Nutrien Ag Solutions' large swath of products and services differentiates us as a unique ag retail partner to our grower customers. How do you feel the sustainable ag programs like the Bunge program have further enabled us to differentiate ourselves?

 

Danny Carmony

It’s another opportunity to go with growers with practices that enhance their farm. And, you know the consumers have changed. The ability to trace your food, people want to know where things come from or how it's done. 

And I tell you what, I'm super excited about that. I know some people it bothers them. I love that. I think if we can hone that in for our customers to help them show, A) the practices they've been doing or have been doing are the right things for the environment, for sustainability. 

But then we can help them get credit for the things they do, make it traceable back to that end consumer. And I think that's a great thing that we can provide as we move forward. And I see it as an opportunity. 

Especially for the grower, but for Nutrien Ag Solutions, because we're in a good position where we can pretty well get to that point very soon. And they'll be able to ask more for their products, hopefully, right? 

They go to an end user that wants traceability. Hey, you want traceability? You're going to have to pay our grower customers for that. And that's exciting to me.  

I enjoy the fact that if I can provide value to our grower customers for opportunity to make more money on their farm with what they're doing and maybe not even hardly change a lot of practices. That's exciting to me.

 

Sally Flis

Danny, as we look to continue growing sustainable ag programming within your division, what are some of the things that you really like about the way we've got the Bunge program set up?  

What are some things you'd like us to see maybe do a little bit differently? And what are some offerings that you'd like to see in addition to what we have in the Bunge program? 

 

Danny Carmony

In regards to the Bunge program, I think, like any program, again, we're all learning together. Programs are coming together literally as we speak sometimes. So, as everybody decides and Bunge or whoever might be, they're in a position where they got to deal with an end user, right? That's trying to figure out what they want and the information they really want because right or wrong, sometimes they don't know either. They don't know what that end consumer wants.  

So I would say that from Nutrien sustainability side, I feel like it's been good. You know, there was some ambiguity as we kind of got into what the programs will be and we kind of ironed it out as we went along. And I think that, you know, that's part of it.

I tell people I'd rather shoot a thousand shots and only make one than never shoot a shot. And, from a competitive perspective, I always take things a lot back to sports and things like that. But we got to be shooting if we're going to win this thing. So sitting back and not lettin’ one fly from deep. We're not going to get anywhere.  

So I think moving forward to the programs I'd like to see, I mean, I'm kind of passionate about the traceability with our farmers’ products that we can sell to end users. And I think as people see what we can provide, I think then you see the other end users go, oh man, look what these people got. Look what Nutrien Ag Solutions customers have. 

And I don't want to be pie in the sky, but I think the opportunity for our growers to make more money on their farm will be real. And, you know, I don't know what all those programs look like.  

It may involve, like I said, just from traceability, may involve some practices that they're doing. But the landscape of the world and agriculture has changed a lot. And, three or four years here faster than I've ever thought I'd see things change. And when you see things evolving as fast as they are, you've got to be willing to look at different opportunities to move forward.

 

Sally Flis

Danny, along those lines, what are you thinking about doing differently in 2024, maybe 2025, as you have those larger interactions with growers and how you want to highlight different products or practices or tools that we have in our toolbox to those growers or demonstrations that you might put out in the field through test plots or something like that? 

 

Danny Carmony

We've got a lot of people that work in this division for Nutrien Ag Solutions that have a lot of very good ideas, have been doing a lot of research, doing a lot of work with customers, mainly in the name of chasing yield, right?  

That's what we want to see on our farms is more yield, but a lot of the stuff that they're using, in the terms of sustainability, already fits that program. So we just need to be a little bit more hand holding and leading our customers to that. 

And we've got to be able to explain to them the end use. If I go to a customer and say, hey, I think you should be in our sustainability program, it might make you more money. That may or may not trip their trigger.  

If we walk into them and say, hey, we've been doing these practices here for a couple of years. You've been doing right by the, by the ground, by the environment. You've been doing right by the products you're choosing to use on your farm. 

We've got a different mindset and an end user than we've had before that want to see that traceability. Here's the steps that we can take with you and help you make in order to get that transparency you want and qualify you hopefully to make more with what you've got there on your current farm. 

 

Dusty Weis

We've talked about this a couple of times in the past with other guests, but I wanted to get your take on it as well. Do you find that among your grower customers, sometimes a lot of that reluctance that they have about trying new programs like this really fades away when they've got someone from Nutrien Ag Solutions to be right there with them and say, “No, see, this is how we do the data management. This is how we get you signed up for Agrible.”  

Does just having that sort of boots on the ground in the field sort of personality there with them really help bring them over the finish line on that?

 

Danny Carmony 

Oh, absolutely. And I believe with the last couple of years, right or wrong, I mean, it's nobody's fault, but there's been a lot of buzz around, you know, carbon sequestering, the traceability and a lot of people, I would say running before they walk.  

So there's been confusion quite frankly, created in the market between customers and not understanding what's right, you know, what could be the right thing for their farm. So there's a little bit, what I call a haze out there as far as what is the right thing to do. 

And I think when we have our good people that understand the programs and go out and say, “here's what we can do.” You know, we're not asking for great big long-term contracts or anything. We're just looking at kind of on a year to year basis, how can we get to this point? And down the road, maybe there will be longer term commitments between us. And I hope so, because that means we're partnered with them on their farm.  

But I think just having the ability to go out to them and say, “Here's what the program is.” We can help walk you through what it takes and then they're free to make their choice, right? 

Hopefully we, we do a good enough job representing what we're trying to do. That they will jump on board and I hope that we get good at it. And then, and you know, from a business perspective, you hope it becomes kind of a competitive advantage in your marketplace. 

 

Dusty Weis

You know, Danny, you talk about how fast things are evolving. And actually, I had that same thought as I was preparing for this conversation here, because the last time I spent some time in Indiana, I was out in West Lafayette, home to Purdue University.  

I talked to Dr. Dennis Buckmaster, who is the Dean's fellow for digital ag there, and they were running some digital ag test beds as part of the Wabash Heartland Innovation Network. This was back in 2018. And he said at the time that one of the biggest challenges that they had to overcome was collecting and leveraging ag data. 

Now here we are just six years later, and Nutrien Ag Solutions has its Agrible platform. So how has that helped growers overcome that data collection and leveraging problem? 

 

Danny Carmony 

I think you look at the ag as a whole, we've got some very innovative companies and people in the industry. And I think what Agrible has done, that acquisition in particular has given us a good avenue to collect data, to make it usable data. And what I love about it is the data that we collect is the farmers. 

It's not ours. It's the customer's information. They give us permission to support them and use it for their best efforts out there. So when I look at some others in the industry, I don't know that their data collection is in the best interest of our grower customers, so I'm very proud that we have one that, we're not selling it, we're not using it for some gain for Nutrien Ag Solutions.

We're using it for our customers and we're spending hundreds of hours, millions of dollars trying to figure out how to use that information best for those growers. And again, it's always going to be their information. It's not going to be another equipment company's information to use or another, you know, chemical or seed company to use.  

It's always going to be theirs. And that's what I'm most excited about with, with Agrible and some of the other companies that we've brought into our fold to help our customers.

 

Sally Flis

All right, Danny, last question. We know we covered a lot of ground a lot of different stuff. We know there's a lot of moving parts to agriculture. But what's one thing that you're looking forward to in 2024 to get on the ground and work with your team and your growers on? 

 

Danny Carmony 

Well, just the opportunity to farm. Somebody told me, I think it was my grandfather told me, if you look at farming and you look at it as your full career, you only get so many chances to grow a crop.  

And in his case, he told me, I don't remember if he said 60 times he gets to grow a crop or 50 times, depending on how long you live, grandpa was a little morbid that way sometimes, but he would, you know, you only get 40 times to raise a crop. 

And so every year when the calendar flips and we go into a new crop year, I'm excited, just an opportunity to grow another crop. I know we got challenges. I know weather, weather's always a challenge and I look forward to each year we get to try a new hand at the crop and that comes with great responsibility.  

When you only look at 40 chances to do something, you got to do right by your customers, you got to do right, especially by even by our own Nutrien employees. So we have to make sure that we were doing the right thing every year for our customer because they only get so many chances. 

So we got some farmers with their 50th chance this year and we got some that maybe it's their fifth or sixth chance. And we've got to be able to provide them A) with the products that help them, the service, which is big… service, whether it be our information, whether it be just simple recommendations, whether it be supporting them with sustainability initiatives. 

We've only got so many chances at that. So that's what I'm looking forward to. If I could control weather, I would be doing something else besides this. And so we look at opportunities. How can we help when the weather doesn't give us what we want? 

We did that last year with some products that changed the way the growers yield went in my opinion. And so this year it's going to be different. It could be too much water. Maybe another time of not enough water, but we got such good people in this business with Nutrien Ag Solutions that they're going to have a solution for everything that these growers encounter this year.  

And it may not be the silver bullet, but we'll have something that will contribute to their farm to help them be successful so we can say, hey, we're going to give it another 100% chance in 2025 for your 40th crop or your 10th crop or your first crop.

 

Dusty Weis 

Well, Danny, certainly some wise words from your granddad there and an optimistic bent to start out 2024 here as well. Great note to end on here. Thank you for sharing it with us.  

Danny Carmony Jr. from Nutrien Ag Solutions. Thank you so much for joining us on this episode of the FARMSMART Podcast.

 

Danny Carmony 

Thank you. 

 

Dusty Weis

And that is going to conclude this episode of the FARMSMART Podcast. New episodes arrive every month. So make sure you subscribe to the FARMSMART Podcast in your favorite app and visit NutrienAgSoultions.com/FARMSMART to learn more.  

The FARMSMART Podcast is brought to you by Nutrien Ag Solutions. Our executive producer is Connor Erwin and the show is edited by Matt Covarrubias. The FARMSMART Podcast is produced by Podcamp Media, branded podcast production for business, PodcampMedia.com.

I'm Dusty Weis, for Nutrien Ag Solutions, thanks for listening. 

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