Dakota Agronomy Partners General Manager Dan Sem.


MINOT ­— The world of agronomy is filled with peaks and valleys, and when planting is finished, it slows way down.

But when the growing season is in full swing, farmers need fertilizer. They line up with semis, hoping it’s a quick process.

“It’s fast-paced, and you need to be prepared for change,” said Dan Sem, who is general manager of Dakota Agronomy Partners in Minot. “You need to be prepared for larger farmers coming in. They need to be reassured that you can take care of their needs from start to finish. It’s not single-axel trucks anymore — it’s semis. You need a plant that’s ready to fill a lot of them when they get ready to put the crop in.”

Dakota Agronomy Partners (DAP) has been just that — a partnership among three co-ops that continues to serve western North Dakota. October is Co-op Month, and CHS SunPrairie, Border Ag and Energy, and Enerbase Cooperative Resources form the trio of co-ops that lead this successful business. 

“The velocity you need to have in business today — you need to get it to the farm faster,” Sem said. “With the equipment they have and the speed they can farm now, you have to be able to get it to them.”

The three co-ops own DAP with a six-man board that includes a manager and farmer from each co-op regardless of ownership percentages. However, they were still using their own agronomy services to serve their regions, while DAP did much of the Minot area. 

That changed in September, when DAP announced it would take on all of the agronomy business from its three cooperative owners, effectively doubling the size of DAP. “Megaplants” in Minot, Bowbells and Bottineau will take care of farmers’ fertilizer needs, Sem said.

“Previously, they had their own agronomy divisions outside of DAP,” Sem said. “I think the economic times have said it’s time for this.”

Sem said customers shouldn’t be concerned about DAP getting bigger and losing touch with its roots as it’s still governed by three successful co-ops. He asks customers to put them to the test.

“If we’re performing and bringing you new things, and we’re bringing it to you faster, that’s what you want,” Sem said. “You can’t do it by just hiring more people. You need the hard assets — plants and more equipment. If farmers say we need to be better, then we need to be a size that’s better for those farmers because they’re getting to be too fast for us. We need more resources to be able to pull from.”

The merger of all agronomy services means they’ll take on those employees and retain the option to move them around if needed.

“They’ll mostly stay in their area, because agronomy is a high user of human resources,” he said. “We do have some employees we’ll share with energy and grain. Right now, I’m in charge of melding together three different cultures. They’re not vastly different, but they’re different. That takes a lot of time. (Those employees) can see we’re performing, but they’ve also been performing. We’re not trying to take anything away from them, but we want to find common ground.”

Sem said he’s looking forward to serving members with even more resources at his disposal.

“The bigger you get, people tend to have a negative connotation with that,” he said. “I still think it’s about how you operate in your individual area. No matter how big you are, I don’t think you’ll see the co-ops lose sight of the grower being most important.”

— Chris Aarhus, NDFU