Southeast farmers have a number of planting options this spring — all of them good. Or are they? The historic high price of commodities and how to best manage these options for farmers and farm lenders will be the topic for the Annual SEALS meeting to be held May 1, on the Clemson University campus.

The one-day meeting, titled “Agriculture at a Crossroads Conference” features three of the most influential, thought-provoking and entertaining economists in the United States to discuss these “interesting times,” according to Johnny Jordan, Clemson University professor emeritus and executive director of the Southeast Agricultural Lenders School (SEALS).

The conference is the highlight of the 25th annual five-day SEALS program, which will be held at the Madren Center on the Clemson campus. “The SEALS program committee decided that the topics to be covered on May 1 are important enough to offer them to anyone who wants to attend,” Jordan says.

Living in interesting times can be a blessing or a curse, according to an old Chinese proverb. Jordan says the program will take a look at the present and future of these good times for farmers. “With a growing ethanol industry, a looming world financial crisis and the new farm bill debate, U.S. agriculture is certainly living in interesting times,” Jordan notes.

Long-time Virginia Tech Economist and Professor Emeritus Dave Kohl will be one of three well-known speakers at the meeting. Kohl recently spoke to and invigorated a large crowd at the Virginia Small Grain Growers with his presentation “Will the Good Times in American Agriculture Keep Rolling.”

How long the good times last are of critical interest to growers trying to determine which crops to plant and how to position these crops in the market. Currently corn, cotton, soybeans, wheat and barley are selling at or near ten-year high prices.

Secondary crops, like peanuts, sweet potatoes and tobacco are all selling at or near five-year high prices. With so many options, growers and lenders alike are in a quandary — a good one — as to which way to go.

Ed Siefried, professor of economics at LaFayette College will answer some of those questions with his presentation, “Will the Subprime Crisis Destroy the U.S. Economy: An Economic Outlook for 20008-2009.”

Well-known Agricultural Economist Barry Flinchbaugh, professor of ag economics at Kansas State University will offer some insights into the upcoming presidential elections with his presentation, “The 2008 Election, What Does It Mean for Ag Policy — Observations from an Old War Horse”.

One of the highlights of the meeting will be a roundtable discussion of influential agriculture leaders from the region. The panel includes Moderator Neilson Conklin, president of the South Carolina Farm Foundation; Tom Scribner, CEO of Southern State Cooperative; Dan Smalley, owner and operator of one of Alabama's largest poultry operations in Guntersville, Ala.; Bill Melton and Curt Carlson, both officers with AgFirst.

The program begins with registration at 8:30 a.m. and concludes around 5:15 p.m. Flinchbaugh will speak at a banquet which begins at 6:45 p.m. Individuals can register at www.aglenderschool.com.

For more information contact Scott Mickey, Clemson University farm business consultant and SEALS program coordinator, at cscfma1@ftc-i.net or Suzanne Coker at (803) 775-4580 or (803) 968-0645.

The meeting annually sells out and space is limited to 120 participants, according to Jordan. Registration fee for the meeting is $150 before April 1 and $200 after that.