MEMPHIS, Tenn. — USDA’s undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, William Hawks, is among congressional and government leaders who will participate in the annual Ag Update sessions at this year’s Mid-South Farm and Gin Show.

Hawks, a long-time Mississippi farmer, was appointed to the agriculture post in the first administration of the current President Bush.

“We’re extremely pleased to have Bill Hawks come and update show attendees on government programs and the outlook for farm legislation,” says Tim Price, executive vice president of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association, the sponsor of the show to be held March 4-5 at the downtown Cook Convention Center at Memphis, Tenn.

The show is co-sponsored by Delta Farm Press, and more than 15,000 people attend the annual event.

Hawks will speak at the Saturday morning Ag Update session.

“We’re also expecting some members of the Mid-South congressional delegation to be present,” Price says, “and they will be offered an opportunity for remarks during the update programs Friday and Saturday.”

The 53rd annual show, will not only give growers a firsthand look at new ag products and technologies, it will also offer the latest information on what’s sure to be 2005’s hottest topic: soybean rust.

“We’re planning a special seminar on the topic, led by the nation’s number one authority on the disease,” says Tim Price, executive vice president of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association and show director.

“Monte Miles, USDA Agricultural Research Service plant physiologist at the University of Illinois, will lead a reaction panel, which will have participants ranging from growers and input providers through end users.”

The seminar will be held Saturday, March 5, at 1 p.m., and will be co-sponsored by a number of Mid-South organizations, including the Agricultural Council of Arkansas, the Delta Council, state soybean associations, state soybean promotion boards, and others.

“Since our event comes just before the start of the new season, this seminar will offer soybean growers an opportunity to get the latest information on this disease for use in making key crop management decisions,” Price says.

“While soybean rust is new to the U.S., researchers have been working on it for at least five years, and Dr. Miles has a wealth of information that can help growers to take a proactive stance in dealing with it.”

Ag Update sessions

Growers will have access to a broad range of additional information in the Ag Update sessions. Here’s the lineup:

Friday, March 4 — Woods Eastland, president and chief executive officer of Staplcotn, the Greenwood, Miss., cotton marketing cooperative, and the 2005 chairman of the National Cotton Council, will discuss cotton sector issues.

Michael Hathorn, vice president and coordinator of economic analysis for Informa Economics, Memphis, will discuss the outlook for rice and wheat.

William Dunavant, chief executive officer of Dunavant Enterprises, will provide his annual cotton market outlook.

Saturday, March 5 — Richard Brock, president of Brock Associates, a widely known farm marketing advisory firm, and publisher of The Brock Report, will present the outlook for soybeans and corn.

And to be announced, there will a speaker on the outlook for alternative bio-based energy, including biodiesel and ethanol.

“There is a lot of interest in alternative fuels from crops,” Price says. “Some ethanol plants are already operating in the Mid-South, and a number of projects for both biodiesel and ethanol are in progress.

“We feel the Ag Update programs and the soybean rust seminar will offer a forum for issues of key importance to farmers this year,” Price says.

Hundreds of exhibits

This year’s show, co-sponsored by Delta Farm Press, is shaping up to be another sellout for the 200,000 square foot convention center. More than 450 exhibits are expected, Price says, running the gamut from the latest equipment to seed, chemicals, and services.

“We have many new exhibitors, bringing a new array of products,” Price says, “and a lot of our every-year exhibitors are increasing their space, so it’s going to be a very diverse show spanning all the major Mid-South crops.

“While we’re proud of the cotton and ginning heritage of the show, it has evolved over the years into a stage for exhibitors representing all of our crops. We believe it is the premier indoor farm show in the South.”

Family fun

“Memphis is a fun place for the entire family to spend a weekend,” Price says, “and we hope everyone will mark their calendars and plan to come and be a part of this year’s big show.”

Coinciding with the show is the annual meeting of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association and its member associations from Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas-Missouri, and a number of ginner events are held during the week of the show.