Where Worlds Meet

March 21, 2014 09:01 PM
Where Worlds Meet

Water worries, dairy optimism and new equipment marked the 47th annual World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif.

Concerns about the California drought and pending water shortages were at the forefront during the 47th annual World Ag Expo held Feb. 11 to 13 at the International Agri-Center in Tulare, Calif.

As the world’s largest annual agricultural exposition, the show drew 100,000 attendees and 1,500 exhibitors to the 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space, spread out on 260 acres. 

Pessimism and optimism intermingled at the show. On one hand, California farmers joined city and water agency officials in a seminar to discuss the drought. Panel members described the drought as "a catastrophe," "a dire situation" and "a tragedy." California’s water policy must be fixed to prevent water shortages—not only in 2014 but for the future, they agreed.

Panel member Mark Watte, who farms cotton, almonds and other crops in the Tulare Irrigation District, told the audience that 2014 is the second year he won’t receive water from the federal Central Valley Project. As a result, his farm depends 100% on groundwater. "Aquifer levels are dropping, more sand is coming into pumps and pump repairs are behind," Watte said. "We’re not on a sustainable path."

Milk flow.
On the other hand, dairy farmers appeared more upbeat than they have in past years. "So far, 2014 is enormously favorable for us," said Sieto Mellema, a dairy producer from Dalhart, Texas. He was visiting the show "for innovation, technology and ways to streamline costs."

Despite water supply uncertainty, dairies are seeing improved margins. Milk prices reached record highs of $23 per cwt. this year, and lower corn prices are shrinking feed bills. 

Rabobank’s Tim Hunt forecasted strong margins for U.S. dairies during his presentation at the World Ag Expo. Global dairy demand will absorb rising milk production, and milk prices will remain steady in 2014, he said.

Increased demand will boost alfalfa prices to $320 per ton or more, added Seth Hoyt, a hay forecaster. Even so, he projected a good year for dairy producers. "This year, dairies are back in the driver’s seat. They will still be profitable, even with higher-priced hay because of lower corn prices," he said.

Special guests
. South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard was at the "Grow South Dakota" booth, eager to recruit dairies to relocate to South Dakota by promoting the state’s ag-friendly business climate. 

Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers linebacker, helped celebrate the California Milk Advisory Board’s Fuel Up to Play 60 program, which reaches students in 3,000 California schools, encouraging them to eat healthy foods, including dairy, and to get at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. 

Next year’s World Ag Expo is scheduled for Feb. 10 to 12, 2015.

  To learn about the 2014 Top 10 New Products recognized at the World Ag Expo, visit www.FarmJournal.com/WorldAgExpo14


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