It was a good three-day February run for the 41st annual World Ag Expo with an overall sense of optimism in agriculture, coming off a good 2007 for farmers who were looking at an even better 2008.
Crop prices are reaching record levels and yields have been there to capitalize on prices.
That put farmers in a buying mood once they got past the morning fog gloom that slowed many in getting to the show, especially on Tuesday when an 18-vehicle pileup shut down southbound Highway 99 at Kingsburg. Several vehicles carrying WAE visitors were involved, including a bus carrying a group of Canadians to the show.
The sun broke through before noon each day and the crowds were big from all accounts.
The 2008 Expo brought a host of new additions to the three-day event.
On Monday, during Media Day, Expo leadership officially unveiled the new Dairy Technology Center and surrounding outdoor dairy exhibits that increased the grounds by 100,000 square feet.
World Ag Expo Chairman Shelley Khal recognized the 2008 Top 10 New Products during the same morning.
Assisted by International Agri-Center General Manager Jerry Sinift, a Western Farm Press staff member passed out plaques to the representatives of the products recognized. Farm Press is a co-sponsor of the Top 10 pavilion
The Top 10 products ranged from a robotic soil sampler, to a precision wheel lug torque-measuring device, to software and security chips.
The only agricultural chemical in the Top 10 is a pesticide with an active ingredient discovered in an abandoned rum still in the Caribbean.
The active ingredient, spinetoram, is a new spinosyn insecticide developed by Dow AgroSciences and sold under the trade names Delegate and Radiant.
Delegate WG is for the tree and vine market and Radiant SC is the same active ingredient for the vegetable market.
They are the only insecticides that provide control of worms, thrips, and leafminers in most major California crops
It is a particularly satisfying recognition for Harry Peck, senior sales specialist with Dow AgroSciences. Peck lives in Tulare and has been involved in the farm show for more than 30 years.
“To be recognized for an agricultural chemical does not come along very often in the Top 10 competition,” said Peck.
Top 10 will be back at World Ag Expo 2009. It is scheduled for Feb. 10-12.
“Leadership and management here at the Expo are committed to improving the show to benefit both our exhibitors and attendees,” said Khal.
This is the first year attendees were asked to register online before the farm show and on-site.
“I was pleased with the first year. It's not a simple task to register nearly 100,000 attendees, 1,200 volunteers and 1,600 exhibitors, but for the first year we can all sleep well knowing the program fulfilled our goal and has room to improve next year,” said Lisa Garcia, show operations manager.
Show-goers from across the nation traveled to the Expo to see all the show had to offer, but most notable were the number of international guests attending the show. At the close of the event there were more than 1,500 registered international guests from 74 countries.
During the closing day exhibitors also spoke with excitement about the business they completed during the show.
“World Ag Expo is the only place to showcase our equipment to thousands of large operators, and this show has been a major factor for our increased sales in the West. We also make many international prospects here,” said Doug Williams, Kuhn North America Inc.
“We've made major additions to the show this year. Next year we'll fine-tune the new improvements. The Dairy Technology Center will get special attention and the registration system will be polished to make it even easier for our attendees. It will all be more refined in 2009,” said Sinift.
Western Farm Press interviewed several exhibitors covering a wide range of crops. Most were positive about the WAE as well as the crops where they market equipment.
Industrial Brush Corporation makes brushes for citrus packinghouses and George Dimpfl, district sales manager, was optimistic the Western citrus industry is coming out of the devastating January 2007 freeze.
“This year if we stay away from bad weather they should do very well. We grow fantastic fruit here in this area. The sugar content and the taste are much better than what's grown in other areas of the country.”
His company manufactures custom brushes for the citrus industry used to wash, dry, and apply wax (microbials for disinfecting) to the fruit.
“Sales are very good and becoming even better because people are becoming more concerned about the quality of their fruit and about bacteria. People are much more concerned about the cleanliness of fruit and how it's handled.”
The forage and grain business could not be better and Kurt Stone of Sherwood, Ore., marketing manager for Allied Systems which markets Freeman hay balers and hay handling equipment, is looking for another good year this season as well as anticipating new developments in the future.
“We're looking more into biofuels and baling corn stalks with a big baler. You hear about switchgrass which requires a very reliable and durable (baler) product. The new baler is currently in development, and we hope to have it on the market in three years.”
Corn stalks were widely baled and sold for forage last season due to the overall high prices of forage. Corn stalks are an extremely abusive product so it will probably be more expensive than any other baler out there.”
Alfalfa is the biggest market for Freeman. “For the most part the alfalfa industry is very strong and growing especially with good alfalfa prices,” said Stone.
“The biggest determining factor for alfalfa's future is whether or not guys have water. If they don't have the water, it's kind of tough to grow alfalfa. That's when they start looking at alternative crops like wheat.”
Durand Wayland is a familiar name in the Central Valley, home to World Ag Expo. It manufactures equipment for citrus packinghouses as well as orchard sprayers.
Jim Brandt, company plant manager in Reedley, Calif., says the citrus industry is rebounding. “It seems like growers and packers have to make up for past losses and that's not always easy. I'd say it's in the process of rebounding. Sales are picking up and that's a good sign.”
Flory is another familiar name in California. It is a leading manufacturer of almond harvesting equipment. While plantings have slowed down a bit, Dennis Kissack, company sales representative from the factory in Salida, Calif., said optimism continues to prevail in the California almond industry.
“We keep producing billion-pound crops and selling them. The marketing order continues to do a good job in increasing worldwide demand.”
Flory is a long time World Ag Expo exhibitor and comes to listen to customers.
“We market through dealers. We like to come to this show because growers like to talk to factory representatives about what they like and dislike about our machinery,” he said.
The biggest issue is that growers would like Flory to invent equipment that would separate sticks when almonds are picked up from the floor.
Kissack understands the issue, but he tells growers taking them out in the windrow only messes up the windrow.
Dust is a major issue with almond harvesting and Flory has been a leader in reducing it. “We also have good news in that University of California studies are showing we are putting out far less dust than many have said in the past,” said Kissack.
Nurseryman John Ireland, product development and research director at Fowler Nurseries in Newcastle, Calif., said farmers stopping by his company's booth in Tulare, Calif. were looking for walnut trees.
“Unfortunately, we don't handle walnuts. I wish we did. We could sell all we could produce.”
Fowler markets almonds, chestnuts and an array of fruit trees.
“Growers want to know what we have that offers them a marketing advantage, and they want to see the fruit on the tree before buying,” said Ireland.
“Everyone is looking for better tasting fruit. I think things are improving in the tree fruit industry. People are not overly exuberant, but they are generally pretty pleased with farming these days. We are talking to more and more people who want to direct market what they produce.”