It's just a week away — the 53rd Mid-South Farm & Gin Show — and those who attend will not only see the largest array of exhibits ever, they'll also be offered the most comprehensive lineup ever of informational programs.

The show, to be held March 4-5 at the Cook Convention Center in downtown Memphis, Tenn., is sponsored by the Southern Cotton Ginners Association, with Delta Farm Press as co-sponsor.

An estimated 20,000 people attend the yearly event, the biggest collection of agricultural products, equipment, and services in the South.

The popular Ag Update informational sessions this year will include biodiesel and other fuels from ag products, market analyses for soybeans, wheat, rice, and cotton, and policy updates by a USDA official and National Cotton Council official.

Additionally, there'll be a special added seminar on perhaps the hottest production topic in farming right now, Asian soybean rust.

“This year's programs will provide growers the latest outlook for commodities, a discussion of current agricultural concerns, and an exploration of new opportunities in agriculture,” said Tim Price, show manager and executive vice president of the ginner organization.

More than 400 exhibits will be spread over the 230,000 square feet of the convention center, offering showgoers a look at the latest equipment, ag products, and an array of services.

“We have a large number of new exhibitors,” Price said, “and many of our traditional exhibitors have expanded their space from previous years. I believe this is the best lineup of exhibits we've ever had.

“Downtown Memphis, with its great food and entertainment, is a great place for a weekend visit, and we hope everyone has made plans to bring the family to this year's show.”

Informational sessions

Here's the schedule for the Ag Update meetings at this year's show:

Friday, March 4 — Woods Eastland, Staple Cotton chief executive officer and newly-elected president of the National Cotton Council, who will discuss issues confronting the industry; Michael Hanthorn, Informa Economics vice president, who will present the market outlook for rice and wheat; and William Dunavant, chief executive officer of Dunavant Enterprises, who will give his annual cotton market outlook.

Saturday, March 5 — USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs William Hawks will discuss USDA programs and issues; Richard Brock, nationally known speaker and writer on the economy and commodity markets, will give his analysis of the grain markets for 2005; and Joe Jobe, executive director of the National Biodiesel Board, will discuss the potential for bio-based fuels.

The Ag Update sessions will begin at 8:30 each morning in the convention center lobby auditorium.

At 1 p.m., Saturday, Monte Miles, the leading U.S. authority on Asian soybean rust, will conduct a seminar on the disease that was discovered across the South late last fall.

“Dr. Miles will have just returned from international soybean inspections and will have the latest on this major concern for Mid-South growers,” Price said. “We hope everyone will make plans to attend this seminar, and the discussion period with several experts, company representatives, and others for one-on-one talks about the disease.”

The soybean rust seminar will be held in the mezzanine level auditorium of the convention center.

In addition to all the other show offerings, showgoers will have a chance at $2,000 in attendance prizes each day, and as part of the emphasis on conservation and wildlife stewardship, two registered Labrador puppies will be given away in drawings. “For the first time,” Price said, “Ducks Unlimited will have an exhibit to highlight its landowner and conservation programs.”

Also, he said, there will be an exhibit in the main hall featuring the association's safety equipment partner, offering highlights of the gin safety program.

The Mid-South ginner associations that make up the Southern Cotton Ginners Association will be holding meetings during the week, including their annual banquet honoring Ginner of the Year Dan Logan Jr., Gilliam, La.