With the price outlook for many commodities still appealing, the farmers who came to the South Carolina Agribiz Expo in January seemed willing to make needed investments for an efficient operation. But many were looking for inputs that had potential for a quick payback.

Keith Allen and Garret Byrd of Latta, S.C., were looking at irrigation. “We are thinking about investing in irrigation,” said Allen. “We are looking for increased yield in a dry year.”

But if irrigation won't give that, “We're not interested,” he said.

The high price of corn in recent years has brought many Southeastern producers into irrigation, said Mike Mills, southeast territory manager for Reinke Irrigation.

But with corn prices softening over the past few months, demand for new systems has declined as well.

“We have seen a little softening, but it is still too early to tell [how long it will last],” Mills said. “We have had some other activities going on with late planting and harvest and that is pushing folks back in terms of making decisions. But we are still confident that things will be positive in North and South Carolina (for irrigation in 2014).”

Containerized seedlings

An expected upswing in the timber business seems likely to mean good business for companies that provide products for reforestation. One such company had a popular booth at the Expo. Bodenhamer Farms & Nursery of Rowland, N.C., introduced visitors to its containerized pine seedlings.

“We raise long-leaf pine seedlings for reforestation now, and next year we will have loblolly pine seedling as well,” said Aaron Bodenhamer. “Foresters are our main customers."

The heavy rains this summer did not affect their seedling production. “Our seedlings are grown in containers in tee rails off the ground,” said Aaron.

Business is going well, and in 2014 Bodenhamer is upgrading its trays in response to customer demand. “There are new timber mills coming on line, and that will mean more need for reforestation.”