Words on success
By BRANDON L.
For Farm News
Bob Van Diest, founder of the Van Diest Supply Co., was the special guest of the Fort Dodge Area Chamber of Commerce Ag Relations Committee Thursday.
Van Diest spoke to local business leaders about starting his business in 1956 and the agricultural and specialty products it produces.
The Webster City-based company, with 16 distribution centers serving 18 states, employs 650 and has never had to lay off an employee in its 55-year history, Van Diest said.
“We’re a stable company,” he said. “We’re fortunate enough to be in agriculture. Agriculture is the rising star right now in the whole world economy, let alone the U.S. economy or the local economy.”
Meeting the standards for quality management of the International Organization of Standardization, Van Diest Supply became an ISO 9002-registered company in 1992.
“We were the first formulator in the United States to be ISO-approved,” he said. “We teamed up with DuPont to do that.”
One of the products Van Diest offers is its Corn Belt line of agricultural chemicals.
“The reason we have as much pride in the Corn Belt label as we do is the quality of the products and in the field, and the comparative results,” Van Diest said in his presentation. “Corn Belt products are a very excellent line of products. We will not put the Corn Belt label on a product unless it is as good as or better than any competitive product in the field.”
Van Diest Supply’s largest production plant is in Webster City.
“We’ve got 40-odd buildings there in Webster City,” he said. “We do a little bit of manufacturing in McCook, Neb., but it’s very limited.”
Van Diest Supply engages in foreign sales for all its products by proxy, through companies such as DuPont and Monsanto.
“We don’t actually export ourselves to foreign countries,” he said. “We’ll produce products for Monsanto, and they will ship it to foreign countries. Last year, we shipped to 68 different foreign countries. We’ve got all sorts of foreign language labels. It’s kind of a circus sometimes.”
During his talk, Van Diest applauded Cargill and CJ America for coming into Fort Dodge.
“I think it’s great what’s happening here in the Fort Dodge area,” he said. “Ag’s a shining star. It’s the best show in town right now.”
It takes a decade or more for a product to go from development to the market place, Van Diest explained.
“The product development, the creation of a molecule, is done more by the manufacturing by Dow or Dupont, people like that,” he said. “It’ll take them up to 10 years to develop a compound. And a very small percent ever hit the marketplace.”
An area of expertise for the company, Van Diest said, is the distribution of such products. In particular, dry flowable chemicals.
“We take a liquid chemical and we’ll make a granular product out of it,” he said. “Environmentally, it’s a good practice. If you spill a liquid on the ground, it goes into the ground and you’ve got an environmental problem. If you spill a dry chemical on the ground you can sweep it up and it’s less of a problem.”
The dry chemicals are distributed in the form of small grains or pellets inside a 6-inch contact capsule, which also makes their distribution easier. There are thousands of chemicals available on the market in this form, Van Diest said.
Van Diest also said he is optimistic about the future of agriculture.
“World population’s going up, tillable acres is going down. Urban sprawl and Sahara Desert’s moving further south. The Chinese people want to get off the rice and noodles kick for an American-type of food,” he said. “I think there’s going to be a strong demand for food a long time.”
Contact Brandon L. Summers at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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