Adventures at the World Ag Expo, which Attracts Thousands
Optimism Despite Drought
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
Under dark morning skies that looked like impending rain, which gave way to unwelcomed blue skies that reminded attendees of the drought, the first day of 47th Annual World Ag Expo, which attracted an estimated crowed of more than 30,000.
The drought was heavy on everyone’s mind, yet the spirit of optimism permeated the exhibits of equipment, supplies and services for the Ag industry. Even the dairy pavilion was packed with dairymen and women from around the country looking at more efficient ways to take care of their cows.
“If you do not have your own ground to farm for forage, you are not going to be in the dairy business long,” said David Pinheiro, a partner in Joe Pinheiro and Sons Dairy who milks about 1200 cows in Tulare County. “The last 9 years have been horrible and about 25 percent of the dairies are gone,” he said. But currently milk prices are at a record high. “We have never seen prices this high ever, period. The first half of the year should be really good, but we are worried about that forth quarter.”
They have land around their dairy, but it has required ground water for irrigation. “Our wells are drying up and some of them are actually breaking and creating subsidence, and the ground is actually shifting. If you want a new well, you have to wait a year; that’s where the demand is.”
We ran into a cattleman from Northern Sonoma County who noted that he has seen better times for his Angus cows. “The state should have saved its water when things were going good so we could have avoided worrying about when it’s going to rain now,” said John P. (he would not give his last name.) “We have too many people drinking out of the same water hole.
Seminar speaker Seth Hoyt, editor of the Hoyt report, said alfalfa supplies would be lower this year, which will drive up prices to around $320 to $340 a ton. “It’s another big concern of dairy industry. The lack of rain fall is driving the shortage,” Hoyt said.
Then we met Al Biancho, a long time tractor salesman originally from New York, but now living in Fresno. Biancho has been attending the World Ag Expo ever since it started at the Tulare Fairgounds, 47 years ago.
Biancho was instrumental in helping to make the World Ag Expo what it is today. Way back, he brought in a Komatsu tractor, the largest in the world, and he put the smallest tractor on top of it, making it a grand spectacle. (Note that Komatsu built the first prototype agricultural tractor in in 1932.)
“This was such a unique vision nearly 45 years ago, it made a lot of press, and the show went international at that time,” said Biancho.
“One of the largest farmers in California bought the big tractor. That farmer produced crops on 230,000 acres. The name of the company was Boston Land Company, later known as J.G Boswell Company based in Corcoran, Calif. In fact, they bought 44 of them at one time! They also replaced their D-8 crawler tractor with a smaller D-6 size tractor on wheels that had much more horsepower and the ability to run at four mph, instead of 1.5 mph. They increased their production by 35 percent!”
Then we came across David Zeiders, a Pest Control Advisor in Merced. He was at the show to find anything new and innovative that could help his growers be more efficient with their water usage—which is crucial right now.
“Almonds, walnuts and pistachios are very valuable crops so I am looking for any crop protection materials that can increase yields for growers,” noted Zeiders. “I am looking for anything I can to help the crops nutrient-wise and protect them from pathogens. I also work with dairies and want to find the best alfalfa and corn seed that will provide the best yields and resistance management. The World Ag Expo has all the companies that can provide these new tools for growers.”
Faith McCoy is one of many students attending the World Ag Expo to learn more and even find careers. McCoy is also the Mariposa County Vice President for FFA. “The Expo is a great opportunity for ag students to see all the different aspects of agriculture, all in one spot. You can learn more about agriculture and you meet other people of common interest,” she said.
As the World Ag Expo attracts thousands each day, the milk coolers at the Expo Dairy Barn are constantly being replenished with ice cream and chocolate milk, popular refreshment at the Expo.
There were also many retired farmers who wanted to see what was new in the industry, after they finally put down the shovel.