(Photo by David Lias)
It's a big anniversary for the Dakota Farm Show, and exhibitors say Tuesday may have been their biggest opening ever.
The 30th annual show opened Tuesday at the DakotaDome in Vermillion and will be open today (Wednesday) from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Thursday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
John Riles, president of Midwest Shows Inc., producer of the show, said he expects approximately 25,000-30,000 farmers to visit the nearly 300 exhibitors.
"It's been a tremendous crowd," he said.
The exhibitors agreed. Jason Diekevers, precision ag specialist with the Farmers Coop Society, said his booth had been visited by approximately 100 people by the early afternoon.
"It's probably the best first day we've seen," added Bill Christensen, former owner of Christensen Well & Irrigation Inc. of Hartington, NE.
Dallas Harkness, area sales manager in South Dakota for Curry Seed, said there was a "huge amount" of visitors that tapered off as the day went on.
"I would say we were busier in the first hour than we normally are. We've had real good results," he said. "I think tomorrow's going to be better yet, even."
Riles said he may know the reason.
"Things are really good in agriculture right now," he said. "Things are really as good as they're going to get, I believe, and we're just hoping it'll hold. The price of corn and all the commodities is right up there.
"Things are good, and farmers are doing well," he said. "I was a farm kid when I grew up. It's always been a lot of hard work, but there's just a little more money in it today."
Diekevers said the Farmers Coop booth has had the most questions on autosteer technology and planter equipment.
"Those are the two biggest drivers right now," he said. "I think all the farmers are in 'spring mode' in their head, or thinking for next spring. 'What do I need to get ready? What equipment do I want? What do I want to try?'"
Christensen said higher commodity prices have had positive effects for multiple areas of agriculture.
"The last 10 years irrigation has been pretty steady because of the grain prices, and higher land prices," he said. "People are developing the land they have, rather than buying. It makes sense if you can develop a piece of ground for $1,000-$1,500 an acre, and land is $8,000-$10,000 an acre.
"That's what we've been seeing the last 10 years, ever since the commodity prices went to where they should be. Hopefully, they'll stay there," he said.
At the same time, lack of precipitation has been an issue for many ag producers.
"A lot of that is hinging on what they're planting," said Harkness. "I even talked to one of my customers that was talking about putting up an irrigation system, and he does not have irrigation now. It's interesting. There are a lot of different things going on."
Riles said he has been doing shows throughout the Midwest, and it seems to be dry everywhere.
"I'm from Albert Lea, MN, where they did get enough rain and they had good crops," he said. "But, it's tough and it's spotty.
"We just came up from Oklahoma … doing a show in the early part of December, and it was dry out there, but the turnout was good and it seems like the farmers are doing OK there," Riles said. "For whatever that reason is, I'm not expert enough to know."
Harkness said most ag producers will be trying different adjustments such as crop rotation to deal with the possibility of drought.
"What I'm telling guys is, don't lower your planting population until you dump the seed in the box, until you're getting ready in the spring, because we might get moisture between now and then," he said. "Don't plan already for the disaster. Have that down as Plan B, but you should still stick with your normal plan and see where we're at with moisture. If spring gets here and we're still dry, then you should lower your population.
"Hopefully we get some moisture," he said.