The second most popular person at this year's 40th annual World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif., may have been Randy Quenzer of Fresno, Calif.
Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani was clearly the farm show's star attraction, wowing the crowds with uncharacteristic charisma for a New Yorker. Then again, he is running for president of the U.S. He even made it “official” at World Ag Expo when an admirer asked him if he was going to run. He said yes.
Giuliani was trolling the agricultural crowd for votes and no doubt garnered a wagonload.
Salesman Quenzer was selling frost-protecting wind machines for Pacific Distributing, a dealer for Orchard-Rite wind machines. Just like politics, timing is everything in agriculture when selling to farmers.
“The timing of the farm show was good,” admitted Quenzer. World Ag Expo, held in the heart of the California citrus belt, came a month after the California citrus industry suffered one of its biggest frost losses ever, an estimated $800 million in lost fruit from more than a week of subfreezing temperatures.
Obviously many growers were hit hard by the freeze, but as more discerning damage assessments are made, many growers are once again harvesting and packing citrus thanks partially to the product Quenzer sells.
Growers protected trees by running irrigation water and wind machines for countless hours each night. In the warmer areas of the valley it apparently paid off.
“Some growers have the potential for a very good year,” said the wind machine salesman. Even in the wake of a devastating industry-wide frost, Quenzer said he had twice as many potential or existing customers visit his booth the first day of the show than all of last year's expo.
“The feedback we are getting from growers is really 100 percent positive, even from those who lost their crops. Those who lost fruit to the freeze are saying the trees came through the frost in good shape because of the frost protection effort. Most people with wind machines felt that they saved trees if they did not save the crop. Temperatures dipped far too low in many areas to protect the fruit.”
The citrus industry has been growing with new acreage going in over the past few years, mostly navels and easy-peel citrus. “We had a good year before the freeze hit,” he said.
Quenzer estimated at least a fourth of the machines he installed before the freeze were on non-bearing “baby trees” planted in colder areas not ideally suited for citrus. “It is one thing to lose a crop, but when you lose a newly planted orchard, you basically have to start all over and that can be expensive,” he said.
During the farm show, several growers who had planned on buying wind machines for newly planted or planned orchards stopped by the Orchard Rite booth to reschedule installations to earlier than originally budgeted.
The propane shortage crisis that hit in the midst of the prolonged freezing spell was a big topic at Quenzer's booth. “We have been talking to growers, the propane industry, California Citrus Mutual, a lot of people to see to see what we can do to get more supplies for citrus growers,” he said. The majority of the state's wind machines are propane-powered. As cold temperatures lingered, propane suppliers cut off citrus growers to ration supplies to homeowners, hospitals and other more critical users. It took government intervention to get supplies brought into the state to continue running wind machines for citrus growers.
One solution to avoid a future propane crisis, noted Quenzer, is for growers to buy larger propane tanks. “Tanks holding 500 gallons were common for citrus growers for years. Now well over 50 percent have 1,000-gallon tanks. After this year, I think everyone needs to have a 1,000-gallon tank,” he said.
In the past five years, Quenzer has had at least a half dozen of his larger customers put in commercial-size tanks, 20,000 to 30,000 gallons, to store propane on farms for transport to individual machines.
“Of course this means buying a propane truck and hazmat certification for workers, but it can be a good investment,” he said.
“Two years ago I had a grower purchase propane for a larger commercial tank for 41 cents per gallon. When you look at prices of $1.50 to $2 per gallon, that is a pretty good investment,” he said.
Electricity is too expensive to operate wind machines; however, Quenzer said a few growers have natural gas powered machines. “This only works when there is a natural gas pipeline running alongside an orchard. If you have to run a line too far, that is too expensive. If you can get natural gas, you will not run out of fuel for machines,” he added.
David Ward of Sun-Guard Chemical Co, Clovis, Calif., also heard plenty about the freeze from visitors at his booth, “nevertheless, people seemed more positive than in past shows.
“It is big when a freeze destroys almost $1 billion worth of citrus, vegetables and other crops, but this is California agriculture and there are another $32 billion in crops not damaged,” said Ward.
Ward sells a sun-protection product for walnuts, cherries, apples, tomatoes and citrus.
“I think what I saw this year that I have not seen in the past was people are coming through the show looking for specific products and services they can use in their operations,” he said. “In the past I think people just sort of looked around to see what was in the show.”
Jack Chapman and Allen Leavitt, both of LeGrand, Calif., are involved in almond production, trucking and custom hay harvesting.
They were at the Weiss/McNair Ramacher booth inspecting the latest nut harvesting equipment.
Chapman works with his father in farming 200 acres of almonds along with custom harvesting 3,000 acres of alfalfa each month. Leavitt's father farms about 600 acres of almonds and Leavitt runs a trucking company, often working with Chapman.
“We stopped by to look at the new low profile harvester. We bought a new one last year, but it was not low profile,” said Chapman.
“Hand labor is the big concern we have in our area along with the lack of rain this year,” said Chapman, who was at the show for only about three hours last year delivering equipment for post expo farm equipment auction. “This is the first year I have spent any time at the show since I came down with my dad when I was in high school,” he said.
However, it does not take a farm show for Chapman to keep up on the latest in technology. Most of his family's orchards are on drip or micro sprinklers. With the air quality limitations on burning brush, chipping has become the selected method of getting rid or old orchards of winter prunings.
“One of the larger almond growers in our area bought one shredder and is about to buy a second one,” he said.
As a custom hay farmer, Chapman has seen major changes there. Big square bales are becoming more common in his area. “What you can cut, bale and rake at night with one unit is unbelievable. And the new big AGCO balers are equipped with knives that can be engaged to slice the bale every four to six inches. This makes it a lot easier to break apart the big bales by hand and it makes it easier to break them apart in feed wagons,” he said.
“Every thing that is coming out these days is more user friendly to save time and labor,” he said.
Chapman is thinking about getting innovative in combining almond growing with the custom hay business.
“In the winter time we shake the almonds to get the stick tights and others nuts not gathered the first time through. We have to rake those to the center. I was thinking why now mow the clover and other grass that growers now use for a cover crop, mix in those old almonds and make a little trail mix for the dairy cows. I think I can take a little baler and make 15 by 22 by 51 bale the dairies would buy,” he laughed. “Why not?”
Round cotton bale
Round alfalfa hay bales have never caught on in California because they do not weigh enough for commercial hay hauling. However, the round cotton bale made by the new John Deere cotton picker makes good sense for Western cotton producers, according to Daniel Burns of San Juan Ranch in Dos Palos, Calif., and Kevin Lehar of Woolf Farming in Huron, Calif.
Both saw the round-bale making picker operate this past fall on the West Side of the San Joaquin Valley and stopped by the Deere booth at World Ag Expo for a closer look at the bale.
The picker was not at the show because Deere has not finished engineering the final model. However, the big round bale containing about 4 bales of cotton was on display at Deere's extensive booth.
Three of the round bales are equivalent to one cotton module. The round bales are made in the picker and deposited either in the field or on the field's edge.
It is plastic covered.
“There is always concern about contamination when you get plastic around cotton,” said Lehar. However, Lehar acknowledged that plastic contamination is now a concern with module covers and tie downs. Some bales are plastic wrapped, although many merchants are specifically asking for cotton bagging.
“I looked at the system this fall and figured I could save $50,000 to $60,000 a year in less labor and equipment by using the round bale-making picker,” said Burns.
The module builder and connected tractor are eliminated along with crews to operate the module builder when switching over to the round bale. Deere says the round bales can be picked up by a module mover, but Burns and Lehar said they'd eliminate the module hauler altogether and haul the bales on flat bed trucks.
Typically, western farming operations do not own flat bed tractor/trailers or stake bed trucks. They generally hire trucking for work like tomato harvesting or delivering alfalfa hay.
“Even if we had to buy flat bed trucks, it would be cheaper than a module hauler,” said Burns.
Lehar and Burns figured squeeze-loader equipped tractors now used to load hay or other commodities on the farm could be used to pick up the round bales for transport to the gin.
With the small bale package, Lehar admitted he was concerned about the picker not making a round in high yielding cotton without having to dump a round cotton bale.
“When I saw it operating, it was carrying a bale like a big bale baler trailer while there was another in the bale compressor,” said Lehar. The round cotton bales were dropped at the end of field for pickup and transport to the gin.
The star visitor to the show this year was former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who admitted he did not know a green tractor from a milking barn.
However, he spent an hour or so finding out why farmers flock to World Ag Expo.
However, before he did, he wowed the crowd not by what he knew about agriculture, but what he knew about Americans.
The grandson of an Italian immigrant who as a federal prosecutor took on the mob and won and cleaned up the welfare rolls of the nation's largest city is best known for valiantly leading his city from devastation and despair back to prosperity and hope after 9/11.
He was given a rousing welcome to the heart of American agriculture when he addressed the opening day crowd at the World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif.
He promised to learn about federal agricultural policy during a presidential campaign he all but announced he was entering.
“Yes, I am,” he proclaimed to huge applause when asked if he was running for president.
If Tulare County had its way, the election would have ended the day of their farm show with Giuliani headed to the White House.
He admitted no deep knowledge of agriculture, but “I know how much we depend on you to feed us and take care of us.”
He struck a responsive cord from his audience when he said America should not make the same mistake with its food supply as it did 30 years ago with its energy supply.
“We need to learn from our mistakes of the past and not let what happened to our energy supply happen to something as vital as food,” he said.
“I understand how important you are to America. You have someone who is very much your friend. I cannot tell you how much I respect you,” Giuliani said.
American farmers are the most productive in the world, he said, and can compete with anyone when there is a level playing field in world trade.
Giuliani also spoke briefly about the war on terrorism, noting that the United States is not a militaristic state and that would rather do business than fight a war.
“We're at war with them because they are at war with us,” he said. “War is over when they stop developing plots and plans to kill us. I hope and pray we are successful in Iraq, but no matter what happens, as long as it is the desire of terrorists to kill us, we have to remain on the offensive.”
For the first time in show history, World Ag Expo welcomed 565 international attendees representing 57 countries, in just one day.
“This record one-day attendance is a true testament to the global atmosphere of agriculture. Whether they grow 20 or 20,000 acres, a farmer's marketplace spans the globe. We are happy to bring the world's farmers together to share ideas and innovations,” said Jana Hopper, director of international marketing for World Ag Expo.
Countries such as Mexico, Canada, China, Australia and Ukraine sent some of the largest delegations to the Expo. Special guests included Croatia's minister of agriculture, forestry and water management — the highest-ranking dignitary ever to attend the Expo from Croatia, and the Nigerian executive governors from Bauchi State and Yobe State governments.
Talk of expansion closed the 2007 show. In 2008, Expo officials will unveil an additional 100,000 square feet of dairy exhibits, adding 130 new dairy exhibits to the ground's already 500 exhibit spaces. The majority of new exhibit space will be in the Dairy Technology Center. The expansion will increase the overall Expo exhibit space to 2.6 million square feet.
“We want to help our exhibitors do more business then ever before,” said Shelley Khal, 2008 World Ag Expo chairman. “We'll be taking a very serious look at our international marketing efforts to help drive international attendees to certain hot spots, like our dairy center.”