No Longer A Horse Race

Every year at about this time, I make the pilgrimage to the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, KY. For those unfamiliar with this event, the show is a massive gathering of virtually every agricultural-oriented manufacturer and supplier in the country. Annually, this single event draws approximately 300,000 visitors, each one with a vested interest in seeing American agriculture succeed and thrive.

Besides being an annual gathering place for members of the ag community, the National Farm Machinery Show is also an excellent gauge of how the upcoming ag season will perform. The past few years, this show has been well attended as always, but most of the exhibitors reported that the majority of visitors were “merely looking at stuff, not buying much of it.” To some, it seemed fitting that an industry show taking place just a few miles from the famed Kentucky Derby had turned into a kind of a horse race for the few grower-customers in the market to buy.

But at the 2011 show, this was hardly the case. Besides reporting that the interest from visitors was at an all-time high, National Farm Machinery Show exhibitors were briskly selling their on-site products. Indeed, one ag equipment manufacturer that brought seven different units to the show reported that it had sold five of them by the second day. “And we are taking bets to see how long it will take us to sell the remaining two,” said the exhibitor representative.

When questioned why 2011 seems to be a stronger year for ag products, all exhibitors gave the same answer — stronger commodity prices. As the National Farm Machinery Show was taking place, crop prices were at near record highs — $7 per bushel for corn, $9 for wheat and $13 for soybeans. And as one exhibitor plainly put it: “Growers like to have more money in their pockets, but it doesn’t tend to stay there very long when they do.”

Given this, 2011 is shaping up to be a very strong sales year for agriculture. And I’m sure everyone will agree this will be a welcome change from the past few years.

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