Welcome to a very special issue of Southeast Farm Press. A majority of this issue is dedicated to a unique conference coming up next week, Dec. 11-13, in Greensboro, N.C.

It's actually two conferences and a huge trade show under one roof, featuring cutting edge technology for every innovative farmer in the Southeast. Articles in this issue give you some idea of the scope of this intensive educational opportunity.

Planning for the agricultural technology (AgTech 2000) portion of the conference began nearly two years ago, immediately following the North Carolina Precision Agriculture Field Day at Plymouth. John Havlin, head of the North Carolina State University Soil Science Department and Howard Singletary with the Plantfood Association of North Carolina brainstormed about ways to present more detailed precision ag and ag-biotech information to greater numbers of farmers. They called together a planning committee, including Southeast Farm Press, and began the laborious process of selecting topics, speakers, location, etc. Their goal was to put together a regional precision ag and ag-biotech conference during the winter of 2000.

Well into the planning process, several of the committee members suggested this conference would blend well with the already successful Southeast Vegetable and Fruit Expo. Before long North Carolina Vegetable Association board members were meeting with the AgTech planning committee. The result is the first combined conference and trade show of the two groups.

The program planning committees for both groups have reached out across the Southeast and the country to get the best speakers available, including farmers, university specialists, industry experts, consultants and others. These individuals bring unique and valuable information from laboratories, test plots, and farms.

Organizers are planning to host 1,500 or more farmers from across the region. Those who attend can concentrate on AgTech topics, ranging from the Issues and Ethics of Genetically Modified Organisms to Yield Monitoring Systems and Data Quality to Variable Nitrogen Applications and the Economics of Precision Farming.

Vegetable growers are offered a range of crop-specific topics.

Synchronized concurrent sessions will allow attendees to switch from AgTech to Vegetables.

On Wednesday morning, several companies are offering Industry Sessions. Southern States Cooperative, Soilteq Division of Ag-Chem Equipment, Royster-Clark/Topsoil Precision Ag., Novartis Crop Protection and Potash and Phosphate Institute will offer mini-seminars with hands-on opportunities for farmers interested in learning more about their products. This is an opportunity for farmers to get detailed information on precision soil testing and variable rate nutrient and lime application, the latest in precision application equipment, updates on GPS and GIS systems and yield monitors as well as other valuable, profit increasing facts.

Several associations are taking advantage of the anticipated crowds at this first-ever event to hold meetings. They include: North Carolina Horticultural Council, North Carolina Pickle Producers Board of Directors and Membership Meeting, North Carolina Vegetable Growers Association Membership Meeting, North Carolina Strawberry Association and Board of Directors Meeting, and the Plant Food Association of North Carolina General Membership Meeting.

I can't over emphasize that this is no longer just a vegetable producers' meeting. The addition of AgTech 2000 should make this a premier event for cotton, corn, soybeans, wheat, tobacco, peanut and other farmers. More than 80 exhibitors along with more than 80 individual speakers from as far away as Mississippi, Texas and California guarantee those of you who come to Greensboro will get your money's worth.

If you haven't pre-registered, don't worry about it. There are plenty of hotels in the Greensboro area, and you can register for the conference at the door. It will cost you $75 at the door for three days of speakers, exhibitors, industry sessions and several meals.

In addition to all of that, some lucky farmer will have an opportunity to win a four-wheel ATV. There will also be drawings for airline tickets, cruises and other prizes. At the auction on Monday night, you'll have an opportunity to bid on another ATV. Both Polaris Industries and Suzuki are making generous contributions to the associations.

Finally, there is a spouse and guest program, including a shopping and tour trip to Concord Mills.

If you need more information, call Cathy Price or Bonnie Holloman at 919-772-2204. The host hotel, is the Sheraton Greensboro Hotel at Four Seasons, 1-800-242-6556.