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June 20, 2002

Top Farmer Crop Workshop covers 48 topics in four days

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – All farm leases are not created equal, and helping farmers get a handle on which crop acres are profitable enough to justify rent payments is the focus of a discussion at a Purdue University workshop.

Purdue agricultural economist Howard Doster will address lease issues during the 35th annual Top Farmer Crop Workshop. The workshop takes place July 21-24 at Purdue's West Lafayette, Ind., campus.

Forty-eight farm topics will be addressed at the intensive four-day workshop. Fifty-two speakers are lined up, representing Purdue and other land-grant universities, agribusiness, finance and the farming community.

"Everybody who attends is a full-time farmer," said Doster, who's also the workshop coordinator. "They are among the best farmers in the country. Last year we had 150 in attendance, and they came from 13 states. The biggest number come from Indiana, with almost as many from Illinois and several from Ohio and Kentucky. The largest farm represented this year is 8,000 acres."

With a new farm bill taking effect this year, farmers might want to consider renegotiating their leases for 2003, Doster said. During his session, he will lead farmers through a formula for figuring their profit-to-lease margins. He also plans to survey participants on their current leases.

"I'll have them calculate their most profitable and least profitable leases," Doster said. "When we did this five years ago right after the last farm bill was in place, we found that, on average, people who attended the workshop had an expected difference of $50 an acre between the most profitable lease and the least profitable lease. At this year's workshop we'll also ask them to look ahead to how they expect to change their leases next year."

Another workshop highlight is a session on marketing, presented by Scott Irwin, a University of Illinois agricultural economist and Purdue graduate.

"Irwin will share research indicating commodity market advisers are only slightly better, on average, pricing corn than if a farmer were to sell an equal amount of grain every day," Doster said. "On average, farmers did not do as well pricing grain as advisers. Irwin could cause farmers to adjust their attitudes about what's really possible in terms of pricing their grain."

The 2002 Farm Bill also receives thorough treatment at the workshop.

"We start off the workshop with presentations evaluating what we've got in the new farm bill," Doster said. "Some of the things we'll find out then we don't know now – the rules are still being written and will continue to be written, I'm sure, after the workshop."

The farm bill, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush in May, earmarks $180 billion over 10 years for commodities, conservation, rural development, nutrition and other related programs. Currently, U.S. Department of Agriculture officials are developing the implementation guidelines.

A conservation issue kicks off the farm bill discussion.

"We'll begin with a presentation on farmland preservation," Doster said. "There's a billion dollars in the farm bill for farmland preservation initiatives."

"Farmland Preservation: A New Market for Your Land!" will look at a farm bill provision that protects farmland in certain areas from urban development. Scott Everett, of American Farmland Trust, will lead the session.

Three other farm bill talks are scheduled: Chuck Conner, an agricultural assistant to President Bush, is slated to speak on "What Happened to the Ag Bill?"; John Nidlinger, executive director of the state USDA Farm Service Agency office, addresses "Farm Bill Compliance Stumbling Blocks"; and Allan Gray, Purdue agricultural economist, outlines the legislation's affect on agriculture in a presentation titled, "Consequences of the Farm Bill."

Other workshop sessions cover such issues as tillage, manure management, Global Positioning Systems, soil fertility, family farming, irrigation, fertilizer, value-added products, crop insurance, commodity prices, land values and innovative farming techniques.

Again this year, farmers may run a cost analysis of their farming operations on a Purdue computer program to determine possible changes in crop rotation, tillage systems, machinery and acreage. Farmers are encouraged to register early for the workshop so they have time to gather data for the computer analysis.

Although farmers who attend Top Farmer are working more acres today than when the workshop debuted 35 years ago, some things haven't changed, Doster said.

"I remember the first workshop in 1968," he said. "On average, the participants who attended that workshop farmed 700 acres, and 85 percent of them had no more than one combine. Last year I found that, on average, the participants were farming 2,000 acres, and 85 percent of them had no more than one combine.

"I've concluded that there are still opportunities for most farmers to continue to lower their production costs by somehow renting more acres and using the largest available machinery."

Registration for the Top Farmer Crop Workshop is $250 per person and $75 for each additional person from the same farm. Registration fees include two meals, coffee breaks and the use of Purdue computers for the cost analysis. Lodging and other meals are extra.

Enrollment is limited. To register, contact Tom Robertson of Purdue's Conference Division at (765) 494-7220 or by e-mail at tlrobertson@purdue.edu.

Those wishing to stay at the Purdue Memorial Union Club Hotel should make reservations by July 3. The hotel's toll-free number is (800) 320-6291.

For more information about workshop sessions and speakers, contact Doster at (765) 494-4250 or log onto the Top Farmer Crop Workshop Web site.

Writer: Steve Leer, (765) 494-8415, sleer@purdue.edu

Source: Howard Doster, (765) 494-4250, doster@purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722; Beth Forbes, bforbes@aes.purdue.edu; http://www.agriculture.purdue.edu/AgComm/public/agnews/

Related Web sites:
Purdue Farm Bill Web site

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


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