South Carolina Ag Commissioner Hugh Weathers took a moment from the Expo to review for Southeast Farm Press the prospects for his state’s agriculture in 2014.

“Markets have adjusted to supply and demand, as they always do,” he said. “There has been significant adjustment in the price range of commodities. The recent shift to soybeans has been significant by itself. But it will be interesting to see if that continues this year.”

That will depend to a great extent on developments south of the border.

“The South American crop will set the tone for grain prices this season,” he said.

The love affair between foreign markets (mainly China) and American tobacco shows no sign of waning, he added. “So it continues to have some appeal to our farmers.”

Many South Carolina farmers are glad to have 2013 behind them, said David Winkles, president of the South Carolina Farm Bureau, in an interview at the Farm Bureau exhibit. “They are hoping not to have those weather extremes in 2014.”

There are some unknowns now thanks to the rejection by the Chinese of some corn shipments that contained a GMO corn that China hasn't approved yet.

“They turned down some shipments, and that had a negative effect on the market,” said Winkles.

But this will blow over, and growers need to keep their eyes on foreign markets. “We really need to orient our thinking on marketing and what our customers want as much as we do to the basics of production,” he said.

Coincidentally, while the Expo program was going on, John Block, former U.S. secretary of agriculture, published an analysis providing some insights into the China situation.

The reason the Chinese rejected shipments of U.S. corn is that they found that the shipments had traces of Viptera corn, said Block. “Viptera corn is genetically modified to withstand insect infestation,” he said. “It is planted on about 10 percent of our corn acres.“

But looking at this incident critically could suggest other reasons, Block believes.

“One might be that they think they paid too much for the corn,” the former secretary of agriculture said. “They booked it last year when corn was at least $2 per bushel higher than it is now.”

Or there might be a political reason, he suggested. “They might just want to punish us a little for siding with the Japanese in an island dispute between Japan and China.”