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As an Agriculture Extension Agent for Texas AgriLife Extension Service I have had an opportunity to be involved in just about every aspect of agriculture. From the 5,000 cow dairy to the types of trees to use in a home landscape I have had a chance to learn how the different parts of an agriculture systems work together. Seedless watermelons, drip irrigation, pecan orchard management, fruit crop development, dairy nutrient management, environmental issues confronting agriculture, producer tours, field days, research projects and more have been a part of my life for over 30 years as I lived and breathed agriculture. Since 2004 I have been actively involved in consulting internationally working in Honduras, Guatemala, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, India, and China. I have worked with missionaries and other groups dedicated to alleviating poverty among third world farmers. I lived in the Middle East in 2007-2008 working on a project for the Borlaug Institute of International Agriculture at Texas A&M University. In this project I was the Chief of Party and Team Leader for a $5.7 Million dollar effort to train Iraqi Extension agents and specialists in all aspects of agriculture.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Blackland Crops Clinic to Address Technology to Lower Input Costs

The Williamson County Extension Crops committee has planned an excellent Crops Clinic to address the increasing cost of producing corn, sorghum and cotton. Even with the highest commodity prices on record still producers are struggling to make a profit, some economists believing this may be the some of the most difficult times in recent memory. Producers have a few opportunities to increase their income through marketing strategies along with some technologies to adopt that will decrease some of the input costs. Speakers at the Blackland Crops Clinic will share the latest information available for reducing inputs and increasing value.

The Blackland Crop Clinic will be held on Thursday, October 30, 2008 at the Knights of Columbus Hall on business 79 in Taylor, Texas. Registration will begin at 8:00 a.m. and the program will start at 8:30 a.m. and continue through a sponsored lunch. The Blackland Crops Clinic will feature a unique way to get pesticide credits. There will be two continuing education credits for private, commercial and noncommercial pesticide applicators given for the morning program. After the noon meal at 1:00 p.m., one continuing education credit will be given in laws and regulations. Producers who need this credit can stay and sign in again for this credit or pesticide applicators who need an hour of laws and regulations are encouraged to come at 1:00 p.m. for this credit. To preregister for the Blackland Crops Clinic please call the Williamson County Extension office at 512.943.3300 or email at williams@ag.tamu.edu.

Individuals with disabilities who require an auxiliary aid, service or accommodation in order to participate in this tour are encouraged to contact the Extension office at 512/943-3300 by October 24, 2008 to determine how reasonable accommodations can be made.

Speakers for the Blackland Crops Clinic include Extension Specialists and Agricultural Research Service Scientists. First on the program will be Dr. Paul Baumann, Extension Weed Specialist, discussing weed control options for producers that includes information on reducing costs in weed control. There are many options in weed control but they are all expensive. Dr. Baumann will explore the varied options and how they fit for Blackland farmers.

Next on the program is Dr. Rick Haney, Soils and Tillage Scientist with USDA Agricultural Research Service. Dr. Haney works on Blackland soils and crops at the Texas AgriLife Blackland Research and Extension Center in Temple. Dr. Haney has been working on breakthrough research for increasing soil nutrient availability and tillage practices that reduce trips across the field and so save money.

Along with Dr. Haney’s presentation, Archie Abrameit, Farm Manager and Specialist, Stiles Farm Foundation, will discuss the tillage work that has been done for several years at the Stiles Farm. Archie will share insights gained from years of work to increase soil conservation, reduce equipment passes and lower input costs for Blackland farmers.

Farmers like to learn about the latest corn and sorghum varieties and there are more available now than ever. Bob Whitney, County Extension Agent-Agriculture, Williamson County will discuss results of the many variety trials conducted in the blacklands and give producers some idea of what to expect to see in 2009.

High commodity prices don’t mean a profit. There is a lot of uncertainty with today’s markets and producers are facing the highest per acre costs ever. With fertilizer costing over $1.00 per pound, seed costs higher, diesel higher, tractors more costly, steel prices up 50%, and interest rates climbing, crop farmers are caught in a real squeeze. Dr. Mark Welch, Extension Economist, will discuss what producers can expect from commodity prices in 2009, marketing possibilities and some forecasts for the new year.

Last on the program is Nicole Gueck, Extension Program Specialist with the FARM Assistance Program. As the size and risks associated with agricultural production have grown larger, farmers and ranches are finding that more of the information they need to make sound financial decisions is either unavailable or beyond their field of expertise. The FARM Assistance program, which is part of Texas AgriLife Extension’s Risk Management Education Program, seeks to bridge this gap and provide individuals with a sound, statistically-based strategic financial analysis. Nicole will discuss the FARM Assistance program and how producers can take advantage of this valuable service.

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