Ever been to the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, KY? It's billed as the largest indoor machinery show in the U.S., this year scheduled for Feb. 13-16.
Let me tell you, it's a tiny little county fair compared to Germany's Agritechnica Show, which I attended in Hanover, Germany last month.
Agritechnica, held every two years at the Hanover Exhibition Grounds, had almost 2,250 companies from 36 countries exhibiting their new equipment. Talk about impressive and downright overwhelming.
What I expected to see, besides the majors such as John Deere and Case IH, were a bunch of short-line equipment companies marketing machinery built for those small, European 100-200-acre farms. Was I wrong.
I saw some of the biggest equipment I've ever seen, from 500-hp tractors to 60-ft.-wide tillage tools. All of this was housed indoors in what seemed like an endless chain of NFL football fields.
I soon discovered that much of that equipment was being marketed to the huge farms of Eastern Europe and Russia.
For example, Dmitry Margishvili from a young tractor company called Terrion of St. Petersburg, Russia, says: “The Russian market is growing day by day and completely supported by the government. Last year the government founded a special ag bank for farmers where they could borrow money interest-free. For everyone else, interest rates are 14-17%.
“Our farmers are buying everything from equipment to parts to service. They want solutions,” he says. “Our farmers want all the technology they can get and will buy from any company they can get it from, not just from Russia.”
Rumors on the trade show floor were that more than 4,000 Russian farmers were en route to the big show.
According to VDMA, a German Engineering Foundation, markets in Central and Eastern Europe are expected to expand 15% by year's end.
Plus, markets throughout the European Union (EU) are expected to expand because of 11.2 million acres of set-aside land being opened for production in 2008. Next year VDMA projects 5-7% more equipment sales in Western Europe alone. In fact, tractor sales were up this year by 3% to 177,000 units.
In the U.S., ag economists expect a lot of this past year's corn acres to shift back into soybeans. However, that's just a movement from one crop to another; we're not adding millions of new acres into production like the EU.
Back at the machinery show, Elmer Friesen, a farmer from Altona, Manitoba, Canada, who grows 2,500 acres of corn, soybeans and dry edible beans, was amazed at the number of people and displays at Agritechnica. “It's unbelievable, and the booths are elaborate,” he says. “You couldn't see it all in a week. It's like going to Epcot or Disney World. Farmers should come here and see this, even if a lot of the equipment isn't available in North America.”
I agree with Elmer. Any time I've traveled overseas I've broadened my knowledge of world agriculture. This trip was no exception. Even though the U.S. remains the leader in technology, we're certainly not alone.
Winter is upon us and that means plenty of farm meetings and ag shows. Attend. Learn everything you can to stay on top of your game. I guarantee other farmers around the world are doing the same.