The nation's focus on alternative energy sources is causing dramatic shifts in commodity markets and cropping plans — and farmers attending this year's Mid-South Farm & Gin Show will have the opportunity to learn how these trends may affect their businesses.

“Farmers are probably facing as many questions and unknowns as they've had in years,” says Tim Price, executive vice-president of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association, which sponsors the annual event, set this year for March 2-3 at the Cook Convention Center in downtown Memphis.

“We'll be offering a very timely, informative lineup of sessions on markets, legislation, and alternative fuels, presented by experts in those fields.”

The show, co-sponsored by Delta Farm Press, has been a must-attend event for years, but Price says this year's program roster has been beefed up “to give farmers the best, latest information available as they go into the new cropping season.”

And as always, they'll have two days to wander through more than 200,000 square feet of exhibit space, featuring the latest in equipment, agrichemicals, and other products and services.

“We're going to have the biggest lineup of new products in several years,” Price notes. “This will be a great chance to see everything firsthand and to talk face-to-face with representatives from the companies.”

Here's the schedule for the information sessions and other events:

Thursday, March 1: The annual meeting of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association at the Peabody Hotel will feature a discussion on the impact of cotton and ginning research on cotton quality.

Emphasis will be on international customers for U.S. cotton, what they're looking for, and best management practices farmers and ginners can use to meet those demands.

Rick Byler, USDA Cotton Ginning Laboratory, Stoneville, Miss., will also discuss SCGA-supported research on moisture measurement in ginning.

Anyone interested in these topics is invited to attend the meeting.

Friday, March 2: Speakers for the Ag Update sessions at 8:30 a.m. will include John Pucheu, Tranquillity, Calif., cotton producer, who is the 2007 chairman of the National Cotton Council, and Joe Nicosia, chief executive officer of Allenberg Cotton Co., and authority on commodity markets and trends.

The show exhibit halls will open at 9 a.m. and close at 5 p.m. There is no charge to attend, but registration is required for admittance to the exhibit halls.

New this year will be a mid-morning session on practical crop marketing strategies.

“We're fortunate to have Mike Stevens, cotton specialist for the commodity division of Swiss Financial Services, conduct this seminar,” Price says. The day's events will conclude with a dance that evening at the Peabody, featuring The Dempseys, a high octane rockabilly group that entertained President Bush and the prime minister of Japan during a recent visit to Graceland.

Saturday, March 3: The 8:30 a.m. Ag Update session will feature Richard Brock, president of Brock and Associates, who will conduct a grains marketing seminar.

“Richard's seminars are always standing room only,” Price says, “and we're pleased to have him with us again this year.”

The show exhibits will open at 9 a.m. and close at 4:30 p.m.

Another special information session, “Energy Outlook: Challenges and Potential for Agriculture,” will be held at 1 p.m.

Speakers will be Jim Allwood, vice-president of Informa Economics, Memphis, and Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark.

“Informa Economics is one of the world's leading sources of agricultural market data,” Price says, “and they've recently restructured to capitalize on opportunities in biofuels research and commodity risk management.

“Congressman Ross is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and is himself introducing energy legislation that will encompass biofuels.

To close out events for this year's show will be a dance Saturday night at the Peabody featuring the Krackerjacks, who've been playing old-time rock ‘n’ roll for more than 20 years.

Additional information on the show is available at southerncottonginners.org.