World Ag Expo (WAE) begins next week in Tulare, Calif. There are a couple of new twists this year for the 41st annual run. The Expo opens one hour earlier each day — 8 a.m. instead of the traditional 9 a.m. It closes at 5 p.m. on Tuesday and 4 p.m. on Wednesday. The biggest change will be that everyone who strolls through one of the many gates must be registered electronically.

WAE management has worked hard to get people to pre-register online, but that ended Feb. 1. If you registered online after that date, bring your printed registration confirmation page to the gate and receive a printed badge for Expo entrance.

That may save a little time since everyone who shows up without a badge or a confirmation of online registration will likely have to stand in line and register at on-site computer kiosk staffed by CompuSystems, the company hired by World Ag Expo to handle computer registrations, and Expo volunteers before gaining admission.

Pre-registered attendees get in the Expo for $9. Everyone else will pay $10. Those with pre-show mailed entrance badges will stroll through the “fast pass” gates.

“We are very confident in the level of service CompuSystems will provide our show and exhibitors, and the confidentiality and security they will give to every attendee who registers. World Ag Expo is the place where agriculture means business and does serious business. Knowing who our customers are is critical to providing them with products and services they need to improve their operations,” said Jerry Sinift, general manager of the International Agri-Center.

Information collected will be held by the Expo. However, exhibitors who purchase a bar code scanner can also ask attendees if they're interested in more information from the company and can directly scan the attendees' information into their Expo follow-up list.

“We are committed to bringing attendees worldwide the latest and most tailored products from our exhibitors. The nature of agricultural production is so diverse that knowing who is attending the show and what they're looking for will help our exhibitors better serve their needs,” said Shelley Khal, 2008 World Ag Expo chairman.

There will be more than 1,700 exhibitors at this show displaying the latest in farm equipment, chemicals, communications, and technology on 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space.

Dress casually. Be prepared for rain. Information booths are located along the East and South Greenbelts and near Gate 16. Volunteers on hand will assist you in searching the database and locating company exhibits.

The popular free park and ride shuttle service from off-site parking will again operate from four off-site locations:

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

  • Tulare County Fairgrounds, located at the grandstand parking area (through Gate 14 on Bardsley Avenue and Gate 17 on K Street) in Tulare.

  • Tulare Airport, located at Avenue 200 and Highway 99 in Tulare.

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

  • Visalia Mall, located at Walnut and Mooney Blvd. in Visalia. (This route picks up every 30 minutes.)

Free shuttle buses will travel from each of these locations to the International Agri-Center dropping attendees off at Gate 2 and Gate 12 on the east and west end of the showgrounds. Shuttles will operate from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Special interest seminars are scheduled for each day.

International trade seminars aimed at helping farmers, ranchers and other agribusiness professionals will be featured on Tuesday, organized by the Center for International Trade Development, State Center Community College District, University Center Export Program, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture, with media support from Meister Media Worldwide. The seminars are free with paid World Ag Expo admission.

“The business environment of agriculture relies heavily on international cooperation. Farmers must be aware and informed of changing regulations and evolving markets. I hope that show attendees can leave the Expo with a better understanding of timely international trade information,” said Shelley Khal, 2008 World Ag Expo chairman.

International guests are also encouraged to visit the International Business Center located on the Heritage Complex's second floor. International visitors can network with exhibitors interested in exporting and importing. Volunteer translators are available for over 35 languages and dialects (including sign language) for visitors from nearly 67 countries.

Tuesday seminars

10 - 11:20 a.m. — “The World of Biofuels” — Biofuels development is rapidly expanding throughout the world. Driving the expansion is a number of issues, including greenhouse gas reductions, energy security, and rural economic development. This seminar provides an opportunity to hear about what is happening in the world of biofuels in Sweden, Brazil, the United States, and California. Learn about the latest information on various biofuels, including ethanol, biodiesel, biomethane, and next generation fuels. Moderator: Steve Shaffer, California Department of Food and Agriculture; Panelists: Professor Bryan M. Jenkins, UC Davis Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering; John Boesel, WestStart-CALSTART; Raphael Nieves, BBI, International; Matthew Summers, Summers Consulting.

11:30 - 12:30 p.m. — “U.S. Free Trade Agreements: Does Free Trade Equate to Fair Trade?” — The Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) are designed to remove trade barriers between the United States and these other countries.

Is the elimination of past barriers really improving the U.S. competitiveness and establishing a fair playing field for all countries involved? Learn what today's Free Trade Agreements really mean and how you can save time and money. Andrew Stephens, director for Bilateral Agricultural Affairs, Office of the United States Trade Representative; Eduardo Torres, director, U.S. Department of Commerce, Fresno Export Assistance Center.

1 - 1:50 p.m. — “China's Food Quality: Vote of No Confidence or Safety on the Horizon?” — China's agricultural exports to the United States surged to $2.26 billion last year, but major countries continue to ban whole categories of products due to consumer safety issues. As the People's Republic of China fights to get a handle on quality control, can the U.S. consumer afford to continue doing “business as usual”? A roundtable discussion will be held on quality control issues in China and how they are affecting the U.S. consumers of today and tomorrow. Aaron Ormond, Global Food Technologies; Dr. Michael Payne, Western Institute of Food Safety and Security; Dr. Christine M. Bruhn, director, Center for Consumer Research at UC Davis.

2 - 2:50 p.m. — “Who is your Competition: Domestically and Abroad?” — We live in an increasingly globalized world where international trade has consistently risen faster than the gross domestic product and this has been viewed as the catalyst for world growth. This seminar will provide you with an overview of the global competition facing U.S. growers both foreign and domestic. You will discover the current and future challenges our growers will face and the opportunities you cannot afford to miss! Dr. Mechel S. Paggi, director, Center for Agricultural Business, California State University, Fresno.

3 - 4 p.m. — “The California-Brazil Connection: Ethanol, Biodiesel, Electricity, and Beyond” — The production and use of fuel ethanol in Brazil since 1975 represents the most important renewable, commercial fuel program ever implemented in the world to date. California and the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil have an existing cooperating MOU on biofuels biodiversity and the environment. Opportunities for collaboration on bioenergy crops and advanced conversion technologies are among the topics that will be discussed.

Moderator: Steve Shaffer, California Department of Food and Agriculture — Office of Agriculture and Environmental Stewardship; Panelists: Alfred Szwarc, UNICA, São Paulo, Brazil; Craig S. Elmore, Imperial BioResources, LLC; Rahul Iyer, Primafuel.

Wednesday seminars

10 - 11:30 a.m. — “Ag Workers Comp & Loss Control” — Presenters: Todd Nelson, C.I.C. and vice president of sales, and Clint Rocha, Cal OSHA and Loss Control representative for Carl Nelson Insurance Agency Inc.

Nelson and Rocha will cover all aspects of Workers Comp, from original classification to loss control due to claims. Questions to be answered are: Why do we need Worker's Comp? How are the classifications determined? What exclusions are acceptable? How does an experience modification rate apply to your business? How are rates established? How does a business save on Worker's Comp?

11:30 - 1 p.m. — “Agricultural Labor Force — Where are they today? Where will they be tomorrow?” — Carl Borden, Association Counsel of California Farm Bureau Federation will discuss how new and existing regulations can affect the availability of an on-demand workforce. These and other agricultural labor issues will be addressed during the session.

1 - 2:30 p.m. — “Realistic Approach - Sharing Your Legacy” — Caroline Berry has a consulting practice that focuses on succession and governance issues in family businesses, nonprofit associations and closely held partnerships. Her practice connects to successful firms in all stages of the business life cycle. She will present a seminar dealing with the planning necessary to ensure a fair and equitable business succession. The seminar will address the questions: What does it take to keep the legacy alive? How to overcome cultural as well as financial restriction? How to deal with the heirs? Can sweat equity be converted into ownership?

2 - 4 p.m. — “Fueling California Agriculture Part II: The Future for Ethanol and Bio-diesel, and new cropping alternatives for bio-energy” — Brian Jenkins will set the stage with a presentation on, “Bio-energy and the future for the California farmer;” Steve Kaffka will cover “Annual Crops for Bio-fuels and Use of crop residues;” and Dan Putnam, University of California forage specialist, will discuss, “Perennial Grasses for Cellulose Production into Ethanol.” The presenters will reassemble as a panel for a brief question and answer session, which will conclude the day of seminars.

Thursday seminars

10:30 - 11 a.m. — “Basic Irrigation Pump Efficiency” — Bill Green, Center for Irrigation Technology, will focus on basic pump efficiency, not Overall Pumping Plant Efficiency (OPE). The pumping portion has its own efficiency and manufacturer's plot the operating condition output of each pump assembly on a pump curve and publish it.

11 - 11:30 a.m. — “Drip Irrigation Works — and Pays: Grower Testimonials” — Jean Caron, Laval University, will report on the results of a study that investigated the zone of hydric comfort of actively growing tomato plants to define appropriate irrigation setups and then to use these setups to grow tomatoes in comparison with rockwool.

11:30 - 12 p.m. — “Advances in Using Center Pivots for Resource Management” — Jake LaRue, Valmont Industries, will focus on the changes within the center pivot industry to meet both wants and needs of irrigators to provide optimum resource management. Data will be presented on some specific examples of how irrigators are using new center pivot technology to minimize input of labor and variable expenses and additionally to improve their quality of life.

12 - 12:30 p.m. — “Micro Sprinklers and Micro Jets: The Pros and Cons of Each” — David Dunn, Rain for Rent, will cover the history and development of micro sprinklers and jets, consideration of orchard/vineyard environments on micro sprinklers/jets, and the water quality and filtration in relation to performance of micro sprinklers/jets.

12:30 - 1 p.m. — “Does Increased Irrigation Uniformity Translate Into Increased Profitability?” — Mark Hewitt, Rain Bird, will introduce a beneficial Web-based analysis and product selection program for use in conjunction with the Center for Irrigation Technology's SPACE Program. This program is useful to determine uniformity metrics within existing and new sprinkler irrigation systems.

1 - 1:30 p.m. — “Simplified Irrigation System Automation” — Inge Bisconer, Toro Micro-Irrigation, will discuss irrigation technology. Sometimes it is inconvenient, if not impossible, to expertly irrigate without automation. Irrigation automation technology has existed for decades, but today it is more powerful and affordable than ever before.

1:30 - 2 p.m. — “Drip Tape System Performance” — Paul McFadden, Roberts Irrigation, details five key areas that need to be addressed to ensure proper system performance and efficiency including: water analysis, system design, proper filtration, careful installation, and required maintenance.

2 - 2:30 p.m. — “Five Drip Irrigation Do's and Don'ts” — Inge Bisconer, Toro Micro-Irrigation, will present Five Drip Irrigation Do's and Don'ts in layman's terms to help producers manage increasingly valuable water resources.

2:30 - 3 p.m. — “Using the World Wide Web to Conserve Water” — Troy Elliott, Cascade Earth Sciences, presents a comprehensive, Internet-based irrigation data management system called the Water Sentinel© to help growers meet yield goals and water conservation objectives.

Prayer breakfast

This year's annual WAE prayer breakfast is scheduled for Wednesday at Heritage Complex Banquet Hall, and will feature a variety of speakers who will emphasize the importance of faith and family within the context of the agricultural community.

The theme for this year's festivity is, “Vision in Agriculture.”

Like last year, there will be two seatings for the popular breakfast — the first at 6:30 a.m. and the second follows at 8:30 a.m. The first seating usually draws large numbers of Expo exhibitors and volunteers, while the second seating attracts Expo visitors and young people from throughout the valley.

Ben Yale from Ohio, a noted attorney who works with numerous agricultural businesses and organizations, especially those related to the dairy industry, will be the keynote speaker. Also on the program, representing the farm families will be Richie Shehadey and family of Fresno, a well-known name in San Joaquin Valley farming circles.

Yale has a national law practice and is licensed in New Mexico, Texas and Ohio, and works in state and federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court. In recent years his work has been almost entirely dairy related representing clients from coast to coast since 1973.

His family had part ownership in a dairy and farmed in Ohio. They were part of a small cooperative that later became Milk Marketing Inc., which later merged to form Dairy Farmers of America.

When his travel schedule allows, Yale teaches an adult Sunday school class and has produced a lecture series, “Understanding Jesus in the Gospels,” in which he presents the person of Christ in the context of history, lifestyles and culture of biblical times. He plans on making the series available on video via the Internet. He is also working on a book from the series, “Kings, Caesars, and the Christ: Understanding Jesus in the Kings of Judah.” He reads several Greek dialects, and also studied Spanish, Russian and Chinese.

Yale does a lot of lobbying for the dairy industry interests on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. He works with Dairy Producers of New Mexico and in addition to lobbying and litigation he has formed several dairy cooperatives. Three of the largest are Select Milk Producers in the Southwest, Continental Dairy Products in the Mideast, and Lone Star Milk Producers in the Southwest and Southeast.

He is a graduate of Yale University with a degree in linguistics. His first job out of college was selling calculators and a “wrong” address led him to the contact that changed the direction of his life's work. In retrospect, Yale saw it as one of those divine appointments in life. He received his JD from Ohio Northern University.

Tickets are $10 for individuals and $100 for a table of 8. Tickets must be purchased in advance. Tickets are available from Gina Jarrell at J.D. Heiskell and Co., 559-685-6100; Tulare Sales Yard, 559-688-7569; Tulare County Stockyard in Dinuba 559-591-0884; George at World Ag Expo, 559-688-1751, or e-mail george@farmshow.org. Sponsorships are $500, which includes two tables and recognition on the program.

Ag leadership breakfast

The annual California Ag Leadership Foundation ag leadership breakfast is also scheduled for 6:30 a.m. Thursday at the Heritage Complex, and will feature Keni Thomas.

Thomas is a former U.S. Army Ranger, a member of the elite Task Force Ranger assault unit who fought in Somalia in the 1993 standoff later depicted in the movie “Black Hawk Down.” He received a Bronze Star and the Combat Infantryman's Badge. After surviving Somalia, he says, every day is a celebration. He spent four more years in the Army as an assistant team leader for the 75th Ranger Regimental Reconnaissance Detachment. He got out of the Army to work as a counselor in an outdoor therapeutic program for troubled youth.

As a military analyst, Thomas has made numerous appearances on CNN Headline News, Hardball on MSNBC, Frontline on PBS, NBC Dateline, Hannity & Colmes on FOX News, and the History and Discovery channels.

Thomas is also a national spokesman for the Hero Fund (www.HeroFund.com) and the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which provides college educations to the children of special ops personnel killed in combat or training. He is known for his popular country music album, “Flags of Our Fathers: A Soldier's Story” and the charity that album helps support. A portion of the proceeds from Thomas' album will benefit the Hero Fund.

The Warrior Foundation is currently committed to providing scholarship grants, not loans, to nearly 700 children. These children survive over 500 Special Operations personnel who gave their lives in patriotic service to their country, including those who died fighting our nation's war against terrorism as part of “Operation Enduring Freedom” in Afghanistan and the Philippines, as well as “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”