Finding and retaining precision farming talent has long been a challenge for equipment dealers, as many look to expand or evolve the scope of their business. While recent years have seen a slowdown in hiring plans, dealers plan to be more aggressive in adding precision specialists during the coming year.

According to Ag Equipment Intelligence’s 2020 Dealer Business Outlook & Trends report, 19% of North American dealers are forecasting an increase in precision specialist hiring, nearly a 2% increase over 2019 and nearly 7% increase over 2018.

The report, which tracks hiring and revenue projections for the coming year, reveals that dealers for 3 of the 5 major ag equipment manufacturers forecast measurable growth in precision farming hires in 2020.

For the second year in a row, Case IH dealers have the most aggressive precision hiring plans, with 32% forecasting an increase in staff, up from 24% in 2019 and 12% in 2018. Deere dealers were a close second with 31% anticipating precision staff additions in 2020, up nearly 13% over 2019 and representing the biggest year-over-year increase in hiring plans among the major manufacturers.

AGCO dealers also plan to increase precision staff with 20% of survey respondents indicating a desire to add precision personnel in 2020, compared to 16% in both 2019 and 2018.

A year after forecasting significant growth, New Holland dealers plan to be more conservative in 2020 in terms of precision hiring. In 2019, some 19% of dealers forecast additional precision hires — more than five times the percentage from 2018 — but only 9% forecast adding precision staff in 2020. Among the major manufacturers, only New Holland dealers forecast a reduction in precision staff in 2020, by 4%

Kubota dealers are also dramatically scaling back precision hiring plans in 2020, with none expecting to add staff. While the outlook represents a 10% decline from 2019, it’s consistent with 2018 study data when none expected to hire additional precision specialists.