This year's Commodity Classic, where soybean, corn, wheat and now sorghum farmers meet for their annual convention, had almost record attendance. Total registrations were 4,527, only five fewer than the record set in 2008. In fact, the trade show has doubled in size since the first Commodity Classic in 1996.
That's terrific, I guess.
What disturbs me, though, is of that total 4,527 attendees, only 1,513 were growers. And that number is just four shy of the record hit in 2004.
What that means is that only 1 of 3 people at this premier convention is a farmer. Why aren't there more who want to see the latest technology from the companies selling it? Or hear first-class presentations on how to better market crops or be more efficient producers? Or, want to rub shoulders with some of brightest minds in agriculture?
By comparison, at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association meeting in January, total registration was 5,300, and 3,600 of those were producers — or 2 out of 3.
At World Pork Expo last June, total attendance was 33,000 and 17,756 pork producers attended — or 1 out of 2.
At the Farm & Gin Show (cotton related) in February, 17,000-20,000 attended with 12,000-14,000 of those farmers — or about 2 out of 3.
Granted, comparing these other conventions is a little like comparing apples to oranges. Still, the numbers provide some indication of involvement from their industries.
SO AGAIN, WHY do so few crop farmers attend this first-rate convention — Commodity Classic — that's so directly related to their livelihoods? Is the programming weak? Is it too costly? Is it at the wrong time of year? I don't understand.
Brian Kemp, who farms at Sibley, IA, doesn't understand, either. He's attended the last five Commodity Classics and says he looks at it as his investment in continuing education.
“I like the national caliber of speakers and the current ag topics they discuss. And I really like interacting with top producers from across the U.S.,” Kemp says. “I don't know another place you could go to get the breadth of information you can get at Commodity Classic.”
I'd like to encourage many more of you to pack your bags and head to the next Commodity Classic in Anaheim, CA, next March 4-6. Forget that it will be a welcome warm break from the winter and go because you're invested in your business and want to get better at it. Go because you'll learn something new. Go because you should.
There, enough preaching.