A long series of late January Pacific storms that dumped 4 to 6 inches of rain on the San Joaquin Valley should keep the all-important World Ag Expo water trucks parked Feb. 9-11 for the annual Tulare, Calif., farm show.

Dust will not likely be a problem at the 43rd annual farm show at the International Agri Center.

Water is the engine powering California agriculture that is coming off its third consecutive drought year. The train of wet, cold storms may not end the natural or judicial drought, but it sure is spawning optimism for the businesses of farming, dairying and ranching.

On a clear day, the Sierra Nevada are visible from the show grounds. This year they will be spectacular and well snow-covered, a reminder to visitors that 2010 will surely be a better year for agriculture.

This year’s Expo chairman, Bernie Cargle, said the storms have caused minimal problems with the show set-up. Some of the smaller tents recently erected blew over.

“Wind has been the problem early on. The rain has not yet,” said Cargle, adding, however, that continued wet weather will make setting up for exhibitors challenging.

Overall, the show is shaping up as another exhibitor sellout. “We were at about 5 percent fewer spaces sold in late January this year compared to where we were at the same time last year. If we do not sell out, we will be pretty darn close by the time the gates open.

“There will be plenty for our visitors to see,” said the longtime farm show volunteer. Before he retired, Cargle spent many years as an exhibitor with his company, Case IH.

“Everyone has a positive outlook about the 2010 Expo,” said Cargle. “The rain we have had is creating optimism. We just hope we have three nice days for the show.”

With three, bright sunny days for what is billed as the largest annual agricultural exhibition of its kind, more than 100,000 people will keep the 1,600 exhibitors busy as they prowl the 2.6 million square feet of show grounds looking for the latest in equipment, supplies and services.

“Powering Global Agriculture” is the theme for this year’s farm equipment show.

Also on hand will be the 1,200 orange-jacketed volunteers who make it all happen.

“I have had a great time as chairman this year and will be sad when it is over,” said Cargle.

Western Farm Press will be at World Ag Expo once again in Pavilion C, Booth 3915.

Show hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday. Admission is $12 per day.

Back again will be the popular park-and-ride shuttle service between five off-site locations and the show grounds. Shuttle service will run every 15 to 20 minutes from the following Tulare area locations and every half hour from the Visalia location:

• Preferred Outlets at Tulare, located at Prosperity and Highway 99 in Tulare.

• Tulare County Fairgrounds

• Tulare Airport, located at Avenue 20 and Highway 99.

• Mid-Valley Cotton Gin, located at Cartmill Avenue and Highway 99.

• Visalia First Assembly of God Church, located at Caldwell and Akers Avenue in Visalia.

The Preferred Outlets and Tulare Airport shuttle buses will make round trips from the West Gate 12.

The Tulare Fairgrounds, Mid-Valley Gin and First Assembly of God Church buses will make round trips to the East Gate 2.

Shuttles operate from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

There are new features at this year’s event. “We have made significant changes to improve the Expo attendee experience for 2010,” said Cargle.

• New Seminar Center

The biggest change is the consolidation of the major educational seminars into a new Seminar Center located in the expansion area on the south section of the show grounds.

The new Seminar Center will be at Expo Lane between R and S streets.

The 1,200-square-foot modular building center will feature simultaneous seminars throughout each day of the Expo.

The expanded seminar site will accommodate 15 additional seminars this year.

Seminars are scheduled covering a wide range of subjects, including:

• California’s water crisis and how farmers can manage limited surface and well water for irrigating crops

• Latest irrigation hardware/technology

• Dairy profitability

• International trade

• Hay and forage production

• Beef production

• Air quality’s impact on agriculture

• Developing biogas from farm waste

• Agricultural career development

Lineups of seminar speakers will be in the show guide each visitor will receive.

In this same expansion area will be the popular Top 10 New Products Center, where the latest and most innovative products at Expo 2010 will be featured.

New to the featured Top 10 will be an attendees’ choice award. A five-star rating system will be used for those attending Expo to select the product they believe most deserves the attendees’ choice award.

Prior to the Expo, attendees are invited to vote online at worldagexpo.com/attendeeschoice. During the Expo votes will be cast at the New Product Pavilion. The product that receives the most votes will receive special acknowledgement after the Expo.

“This new addition to the Top 10 New Products Contest is really exciting,” Cargle said.

• Wine, Cheese Tasting

The Seminar Center will also have food and drink areas, including an expanded wine and cheese tasting pavilion. It will feature local wineries, as well as wineries from other parts of California.

• Ag Careers Center

AgCareers.com, the leading agriculture based career site, has teamed up with World Ag Expo to open the new Hilvers Career and Education Center this year. Located in the Hilvers building on Media Street, the center will house AgCareers.com booth spaces and job board kiosks.

The center will also house displays and information for several community colleges and universities, including College of the Sequoias; University of California, Davis; Cal Poly Pomona; California State University Fresno; Cal Poly San Luis Obispo; and the John Deere Trade School.

• World Ag Expo Forage Challenge

In conjunction with the new hay and forage seminar, the World Ag Expo’s Forage Challenge is being held for the first time this year. Winners will be announced on Monday before the show officially opens.

• New Central Valley Winery Tour

Along with the traditional dairy, nursery and citrus tours during the Expo, there will be a tour of local wineries.

On Wednesday, Feb. 10, a special double-decker bus will transport visitors to three San Joaquin Valley wineries for wine tasting. The bus will leave the International Agri-Center Heritage Complex at 9:30 a.m. and return about 3 p.m.

• West Coast Nationals

The popular, high-powered West Coast Nationals Power Pulling Series will be held Tuesday and Wednesday evenings at the nearby Tulare County Fairgrounds after the Expo closes.

After a successful debut last year, stock, showroom tractors will be back at West Coast Nationals.

Record crowds totaling 3,500 people saw the 2009 event.

Donnie Fagundes of Hanford, Calif., president of the sanctioning Pacific Tractor Pullers Association, said the Manufacturer’s Cup was one reason for the big crowd, and it is back by popular demand.

A pack of Central Valley tractor dealers want to dethrone Quality Machinery’s AGCO entry that took home the Manufacturer’s Cup last year.

“We are definitely looking forward to defending the title AGCO and Quality Machinery took home last year,” said Brian Potter, Quality’s operations manager. “I think the entire event turned out really well last year. We would like to see it grow year after year.”

Gates open at 4:30 p.m. at the Tulare County Fairgrounds, and the first pull is at 6 p.m.

Those who pre-registered online for World Ag Expo received a complimentary ticket to the truck and tractor pulls. For those who pay when they arrive at the World Ag Expo gate, they can go by West Coast Nationals’ exhibit space (J30) and register for a complimentary souvenir badge that will get them into the pulls in the evening.

email: hcline@farmpress.com