Some of the nation's most profitable farmers stormed Chicago in January for the 14th annual Top Producer Seminar, "Win in the New Economy.” More than 600 attendees marked the fourth straight year of record attendance for the event.
Seminar topics ranged from commodity marketing and business planning to investment opportunities in the agricultural industry and sparked debate among producers and speakers alike. Highlights this year included a banker's roundtable and several sessions on how producers can secure credit in tough economic times.
A thread running throughout many presentations was how agriculture can continue to thrive as anti-agriculture groups gain attention.
"Agriculture is not being viewed as ‘green' anymore,” said Bill Buckner, CEO and president of Bayer CropScience, at the seminar. "What we see is the ag industry being defined by outside sources.”
A session on the role of megafarms continued the discussion begun in Top Producer magazine in 2009 about concentration in agriculture. Part of the discussion focused on what role large farms play in rural communities.
"I hate that consolidation is occurring, but I can't change it,” said panelist Allen Lash, president of AgriSolutions and founder of Family Farms LLC. "That being said, large farms have a bigger social responsibility to local communities.”
The 2010 Top Producer seminar was sponsored by: AgriGold, Agrotain, Asgrow, AutoFarm, Bayer CropScience, Challenger, Pioneer Hi-Bred and SFP. Co-sponsors were: Cargill, Carhartt, EMD Crop BioScience, Integris/OPI Systems, Kennedy and Coe, MANA Crop Protection, Michelin, Rabobank, Top Third Ag Marketing and Water Street Solutions.
A highlight of the seminar each year is the Top Producer of the Year award ceremony, held the Thursday evening of seminar week. This year's winner was Donny DeLine of Charleston, Mo. He won in part for his entre-preneurial skills in growing his uncle's family farm to nearly 20,000 acres in four states. You can read more about DeLine's farming operation in an upcoming issue of Top Producer.
Finalists for the 2010 award were: Schmidt Farms, Sudlersville, Md. (featured in this issue) and Hudye Farms U.S. Inc., Burlington, Colo. (to be featured in a future issue).
DeLine receives use of a new Challenger MT700 track tractor or an MT600 wheeled tractor for 200 hours or six months (whichever comes first). All of the finalists were awarded a Panasonic Toughbook computer, courtesy of Bayer CropScience.
In a new twist to this annual award evening, several past winners were on hand to receive one-of-a-kind Top Producer of the Year commemorative Carhartt jackets, which will be kept exclusive to winners. DeLine was presented the embroidered Carhartt jacket by 2009 Top Producer of the Year Lon Frahm.
Young Farmer Buzzes.
In addition to the Top Producer Seminar, the second annual Young Farmer Program focused on preparing the next generation of leaders in agriculture. Registrations doubled for this year's program. Young producers were buzzing with new ideas and questions for the more than 15 speakers and panelists on the program, sponsored by Agrotain, Bayer CropScience, Cargill and Pioneer Hi-Bred.
Afternoon sessions of the Young Farmer event focused on family farm transitions and included information on conflict management, talking to dad about succession planning and how young farmers can find credit. Another panel discussion focused on helping young producers build relationships with their suppliers.
"Young producers are the future of our industry, and we are very focused on working with them to develop programs that make sense for their farm size and needs,” says Jimmy Johnson, Agrotain International U.S. sales director and a panel participant.
The Young Farmer Program was capped off with a special reception and presentation by Top Producer columnist John Phipps and his son Aaron, who recently came home to the family farm.
Watch for more coverage from the 2010 Top Producer Seminar in the Spring issue of Top Producer.
Are You a Top Producer?
It's not too early to think about applying for the next Top Producer of the Year award, which will be presented at the seminar the week of Jan. 24, 2011. The award recognizes producers who demonstrate excellence in the business of farming, including marketing, farm finance, family and employee relations, technology and environmental stewardship. For more information and to enter the contest, visit www.TopProducer-Online.com
Top Producer, March 2010