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Ag Conference Plans For Improvement
MEMPHIS -- Mississippi State University co-hosted a conference in late July that plans to brighten the outlook for agriculture in the Midsouth.
About 175 agricultural leaders from Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana gathered in Memphis to study the current situation and look ahead to what the future of agriculture may hold. Farmers, lenders and suppliers were joined by Extension Service professionals, agriculture specialists and researchers.
"We timed the conference to address the situation the agriculture industry faces with the lowest commodity prices in recent history coupled with the high prices of land rental, labor and input costs," said Michael Ouart, conference co-coordinator and state program leader of agriculture and natural resources within MSU's Extension Service. "While agriculture's technology revolution is giving farmers an edge, it comes with a price, and follows on the heels of limited international markets, additional regulations and other difficulties."
The conference focused on ways to manage the risks associated with farming, both from a production and management perspective. It also discussed barriers that stand in the way of farmers adopting new management strategies.
A common theme among conference speakers was that traditionally, the only risk management tools farmers considered were irrigation and crop insurance. More than ever before, today's farmers need to be good managers, using all the tools available to manage the financial risks associated with farming.
After the conference, a task force was formed to develop specific strategies to educate those in agriculture on how to survive a time of low prices and high costs. The task force, which consists of state agriculture program leaders from the Extension Services of each participating state, has been commissioned to develop strategies for reaching farmers with needed information and resources.
"The technology revolution has provided a lot of benefits, but it is also pricey," Ouart said. "The last Farm Bill promised farmers flexibility in their production, access to international markets and non-intrusive, common-sense, voluntary regulations."
Ouart said that so far, it seems that only the flexibility to produce has been realized, while markets have remained weak and prices of inputs and regulation compliance have gone up.
The task force will look at educational programs to help producers deal with this situation.