With daffodils blooming merrily and spring (hopefully) just around the corner, some random observations after most of two months on the road:
Remember, years ago, when there was a national furor and the country was up in arms because of a prediction that the price of a loaf of bread could hit $1? You'd have thought the apocalypse was imminent. Newspapers were editorializing, Congressmen were making indignant speeches, consumers were frantic that their peanut butter and jelly and bologna sandwiches were in jeopardy.
At the grocery store yesterday, the bright red price sticker on a loaf of Wonder plain white bread was $2.09 (a similar size loaf of wheat bread was $2.05 — go figure). No editorials, no speeches, no protesting consumers.
Yet, farmers are getting less per bushel for their wheat today than back when everyone was bent out of shape over the prospects of $1 loaves of bread. Is something wrong with this picture?
As one who can remember, at the start of my Farm Press career, paying $25 to $35 a night for perfectly nice Holiday Inn, Ramada, Hampton, Best Western hotel rooms while traveling about the Mid-South, and maybe $50 when I traveled to a big city for an ag conference, it's mind-boggling nowadays that the room rates for ag meetings in metropolitan areas routinely run $150 to $250 a night, plus soak-the-traveler taxes of 13 percent to 17 percent.
And it is equally amazing how much money one can pay in those expensive hotels for restaurant meals that are mediocre to awful.
Could there be a clue here as to why attendance at some of these big city meetings has declined?
One place where attendance was great was the Mid-South Farm & Gin Show at Memphis. The downtown convention center was packed with folks checking out the latest equipment, products, and services.
Show manager Lee Todd must be living right. He always wishes for rain just prior to the show so farmers won't be in the fields. This year, rains blanketed the Mid-South before the show, and people turned out in droves.
“It's great, just great,” said Lee, all smiles. “If I could run it through a Xerox machine and have another just like it next year, that'd be fine.”
His big wish now is that the expansion of the convention center will be completed in time for next year's show. That would free up another 30,000 or so square feet of exhibit space and allow the show the growth that's been thwarted by the size of the current space. “They tell us it will be done in time for the 2002 show,” he says.
But Memphis' construction projects have an unfortunate history of lagging. Lee may need a some extra luck on this particular wish.
If you did not attend Mississippi farmer/ginner Kenneth Hood's presentation on precision farming at the Gin Show Ag Update session, you missed one of the best I've seen anywhere since this technology came on the scene.
Kenneth, who manages to squeeze 36 hours into a 24-hour day, is, to use an econo-speak term, an “early adopter.” He has for years been in the forefront of testing, under real world conditions, new equipment, technologies, and production methods.
He keeps meticulous records and he tells it like it is, pulling no punches in his evaluation of products, and frankly acknowledging when things don't work.
From the use of satellite imagery to tailored application of nutrients and chemicals to yield monitors, he's using it all, and he can tell you to the penny how it's paying off in better yields and more dollars to the bottom line.
If Kenneth's doing this presentation anywhere in your neighborhood, plan to attend. It'll be worth your time.