The 55th Mid-South Farm & Gin Show, which starts today at the Cook Convention Center in downtown Memphis, offers an excellent opportunity for growers to get a handle on what’s shaping up for them in 2007.

At the threshold of a new cropping season, Delta farmers are confronted with a myriad of uncertainties and questions — energy, markets, trade, legislation, not to mention issues related to cotton quality, bale moisture, and other concerns.

At the same time, they’re being offered perhaps the most incredible array ever of new products and technologies, ranging from a much-awaited cotton picker with an onboard module builder, to new guidance systems, more effective ag chemicals, and an extensive lineup of equipment and services.

“Now, more than ever, the connections that link U.S. agriculture to the world are critical to the farmer’s success,” says Tim Price, executive vice president of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association, which sponsors the largest indoor exhibition of agricultural products, equipment, and services in the Mid-South and the largest cotton equipment trade show in the nation. An estimated 20,000 persons attend the event.

“There are huge opportunities as these new linkages are being formed,” he says, “and this exhibition offers Delta growers a view of a broad showcase of products that reflect where agriculture is headed.

Attending the show, which is co-sponsored by Delta Farm Press, has long been an early spring tradition for Mid-South farmers, ginners, and others involved in agriculture, Price says.

Whether you’re a first-timer, or you’ve been coming for decades, you’re sure to have a great time taking in everything offered by more than 400 exhibitors, spread out over more than 200,000 square feet of the convention center.

“Each year, we work hard to provide the broadest showcase possible of ag-related items,” Price says. “This year, I think we have more new products, equipment, technologies, and services than we’ve had in a long time.”

SPECIAL SEMINARS

New this year will be two special seminars, one on cotton marketing strategies, the second on agriculture’s challenges as the nat ion moves toward increased renewable energy production.

“In recent years, we’ve added seminars on topics of major interest,” Price says, “and we believe everyone will benefit from participating in the two that we’ve scheduled this year.”

The seminar on cotton marketing strategies, to be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday, will be conducted by Mike Stevens, Mandeville, La., cotton specialist for SFS Futures, the commodity division of Swiss Financial Services.

“Mike has been a cotton broker for nearly 40 years and is very knowledgeable of what’s going on in markets,” Price says. “He’s a good, practical teacher, who can help growers understand what’s happening in markets and what it means in terms of farm-level marketing.”

The special energy seminar will be held at 1:00 p.m. Saturday, and will offer an in-depth look at what energy legislation and the move to biofuels will mean to crop prices, crop shifts, and the potential impact on Mid-South agriculture.

“We’re fortuate to have Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to discuss this important topic,” Price says.

Also on the program will be James K. Allwood, senior vice president and leader of Informa Economics Energy Services at Memphis, which provides comprehensive commodity consulting and risk management services in energy and renewable fuels.

Representatives of state agencies, energy distribution companies, and farmers will also participate.

“There is tremendous interest in biofuels and how they will affect farming as the nation moves toward greater energy independence,” Price says. “This seminar will offer growers the opportunity to interact with key people in this arena.”

AG UPDATE SESSIONS

The popular Ag Update sessions, focusing on markets, legislation, and other issues will be held Friday and Saturday at 8:30 a.m.

Here’s the lineup of speakers:

Friday, March 2 — John Pucheu, an Arizona producer who is the new chairman of the National Cotton Council, will discuss cotton issues and legislation; Carl Brothers, senior vice president of Riceland Foods, will discuss the outlook for rice; and Joe Nicosia, CEO of Allenberg Cotton Co., will discuss the outlook for U.S. and world cotton.

Saturday, March 3 — Richard Brock, president of Brock Associates, will conduct a session on the grains market outlook, marketing strategies, and projections for 2007.

(All Ag Update sessions will be held in the lobby auditorium of the convention center, with SCGA President Curtis Stewart presiding.)

SHOW HOURS

Doors for the big show will open at 9 a.m. Friday and Saturday. The show closes at 5 p.m. Friday, 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free, but registration is required to enter the show.

FUN ‘N’ FOOD

There’s lots to see and do in Memphis — and plenty of great places to eat, catering to every taste, from lip-smacking barbecue to upscale gourmet (information on downtown attractions, entertainment, shopping, and restaurants is on pages 58-68 of this program).

There are several events associated with the show, including:

n The Jamboree, in the Grand Ballroom of the Peabody Hotel Friday evening from 9:00 until 1 a.m. There’ll be a cash bar, with music by The Dempseys. (Adults only for this event, please.)

n Closing out the weekend will be another dance Saturday night, also in the Grand Ballroom of the Peabody, beginning at 9:00, and continuing until 1 a.m. Music by The Krackerjacks. (Again, adults only, please.)