The upcoming All Commodities Conference, which will be held this year in Durham, N.C., started as a small meeting of the North Carolina soybean and corn growers association 23 years ago.

This year it will include soybeans, corn, small grains, and cotton.

Though the individual commodity associations plan the meeting content, date, and location, Bonnie Holloman has been, since its inception, the driving force behind the merger.

“Combining the commodities is a great thing and the individual organizations do a great job of putting together a program that benefits all the commodities,” she says.

Dan Weathington, executive director of the North Carolina Small Grain Growers Association says a high percentage of his membership grow several, if not all the commodities included in the annual conference.

The Small Grain Growers Association will be the official host of this year’s conference, which will be held Jan. 12-13 in Durham, N.C. 

“Each association is required by law to meet at least once a year, so we can each have our business meeting during the conference, then come together and participate in the overall program,” Weathington says.

For several years the corn and soybean associations in North Carolina met together, then the grain growers joined, and two years ago the North Carolina Cotton Growers Association joined the conference.

“We’re working with the North Carolina Peanut Growers Association to try and get them to become part of the meeting, because they are in the same situation as all the other commodities in the state,” Weathington says.

“Over the past few years in particular, small farms have been consolidated to become larger, more diversified farming operations, resulting in fewer and fewer farmers. We still have a number of small acreage farmers in our membership, but the emphasis has surely been toward bigger farms and fewer farmers over the past few years,” he adds.

The All Commodities Conference is traditionally held two years in the eastern part of the state and two years in the Raleigh area. Weathington notes that attendance in the conference has grown each of the past few years, regardless of location.

This year’s meeting will feature an impressive array of speakers.

The host commodity typically has a national leader to start off the show and this year is no different. Dana Peterson will start the program with an update on wheat production, legislation and a look forward to marketing opportunities.

Long-term price outlook

Peterson is CEO of the National Association of Wheat Growers, and is headquartered in Washington D.C.

Mike Dyar, director of global policy for the U.S. Foreign Agriculture Service will discuss the long-term outlook for commodity prices. Dyar will address at least eight trends he contends shape global markets.

North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler has been tireless in his efforts to develop foreign markets for state-grown commodities. Troxler and members of the grower associations involved in the All Commodities Conference have visited China and other foreign countries to develop contacts and buyer sources.

Growers will likely be keenly interested in presentations by Phil Laney, former director of the U.S. Soybean Export Council in China; and Thomas Eager, CEO of the North Carolina Port Authority.

China is a major buyer of North Carolina-grown cotton and is becoming a significant buyer of soybeans grown in the state.

North Carolina is a grain deficit state, yet there is a growing market for soybeans in the export market. At a steady $13-$15 dollars a bushel, competition is sometimes fierce for the state’s 1.2 million acre soybean crop.

A key component of building export markets is the ability to get commodities to foreign markets in a short period of time and to deliver these crops at high quality levels. Eager will discuss the development of port facilities in North Carolina to handle this growing export business.

Politicalization is a new term that is growing in importance to farmers across the country. Already, billions of dollars have been cut from the upcoming farm bill, seemingly without much of a fight from agricultural supporters in the U.S. House and Senate.

During the All Commodity Conference, a panel of North Carolina senators and congressmen will hold a round-table discussion to talk about the issues facing state farmers.

Included on the panel are: North Carolina senators David Rouzer and Brent Jackson and North Carolina businessman Lawrence Davenport. The panel discussion will be chaired by Ray Starling, general counsel for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture.

During the meeting North Carolina State University researchers will give research and Extension updates on the four commodities represented in the meeting. Keith Edmisten will give the cotton update. Randy Weisz will give the wheat and small grain update. Ron Heiniger will give the corn update and Jim Dunphy will give the soybean update.

A highlight of the annual meeting is presentation of high yield and high profitability awards by each state commodity. Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler annually provides lively commentary during presentation of these highly contested and highly prestigious awards.

The conference features one of the larger agriculture exhibits, with vendors from throughout the Southeast attending. Growers and other visitors to the annual meeting are given time during the conference to visit the exhibition hall and get information from participants.

For more information about the meeting, including the conference agenda, meeting registration and hotel reservations, contact the North Carolina Small Grain Growers Association.

rroberson@farmpress.com