End of the John Deere Era at R.N. Johnson

1/19/2013 7:00 AM
By Lorraine Merrill New Hampshire Agriculture Commissioner

We have heard from many in the farming community who were distressed to learn that John Deere had pulled its dealership from R.N. Johnson Inc. of Walpole.

One farmer sent the clipping from the Union Leader with a note, “This is not right.”

Alan Johnson, who runs the business started by his grandfather in 1929, said the cancellation of their Deere contract is a “sad end” to a long chapter in the history of R.N. Johnson, believed to have been one of the oldest John Deere dealers in the world.

“While losing John Deere was hard,” Johnson wrote in an email, “the most difficult result was having to lay off six of our 20 employees in an effort to immediately downsize. We have not had a layoff in our 84-year history and we pray for the six families affected by this unfortunate turn of events.”

However, Johnson wants people to know that R.N. Johnson Inc. will continue to operate with their other lines, including Kuhn, Ariens, Echo and Stihl, and are in the process of bringing on a new tractor line.

“We will continue to serve our many loyal John Deere customers with parts and service, just as we have for years,” he said. “We have already secured sources for John Deere parts and will be able to continue providing parts without changing our competitive pricing. When necessary, we will assist our customers with newer equipment to secure warranty service from a neighboring dealer.”

Johnson said he has been fighting to prevent the loss of the John Deere contract for close to a decade.

“It has been John Deere’s corporate philosophy and mission to eliminate all small, single-location dealers nationwide,” he wrote. “We are just the latest casualty.”

A spokesman for John Deere said there is no corporate philosophy or mission to eliminate single-store dealers — but that there is a marked trend of fewer single-location dealers each year, similar to trends in other types of businesses.

Johnson said his family’s company will maintain their focus on serving the agricultural community.

R.N. Johnson has been a mainstay of the NH ROPS Rebate Program, hosting outreach events, contributing money and expertise. The dealership has gone the extra mile to help customers from all over obtain rollbar retrofit kits for any kind of tractor, selling them at dealer cost. This not only helps customers, it also helps stretch ROPS Program fund dollars.

Speaking of the NH ROPS Rebate Program — funds are currently available, and winter is a great time to get the work done. The rebate covers 70 percent of the cost of parts and installation, up to $765.

Visit http://ropsr4u.com/nh/ for information, or contact Barbara Bayes at 877-767-7748 or 607- 547-6023, extension 231, or bbayes<\@>nycamh.com.

Respond to the Census

The National Agricultural Statistics Service mailed out 2012 Census of Agriculture forms in late December. Farmers are asked to respond by mail or online by Feb. 4.

Participation by every farmer and rancher, regardless of size or type of operation, is vitally important. By responding to the census, producers help themselves, their communities and all of U.S. agriculture, by demonstrating that agriculture does count.

Any farmers, new or established, who did not receive a questionnaire in the mail should provide their contact information at www.agcounts.usda.gov/cgi-bin/counts/ and NASS will send them a questionnaire, says New England NASS Director Gary Keough. They will have until March 31 to sign up.

NASS will release the 2012 Ag Census data beginning in February 2014. Detailed reports will be published for all counties, states and the nation.

It was from the last census of 2007 that we learned New Hampshire ranked No. 1 in the nation for percentage of farms reporting direct-to-consumer sales; No. 3 for percentage of sales from direct marketing; No. 1 for percentage of ag sales from organic products; and No. 2 for percentage of famers who are women.

Hillsborough and Rockingham counties ranked No. 37 and No. 38 among all U.S. counties for total direct-to-consumer sales.

Participation in the ag census is essential to get an accurate picture of New Hampshire agriculture.

Lorraine Merrill is New Hampshire’s Commissioner of Agriculture, Markets & Food.

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