If the U.S. Congress gets its act together in time, Southwest farmers will hear details about how a new farm bill will affect their operations at the fourth annual Southwest Crops Production Conference and Expo, Feb. 5 in Lubbock.

If congress continues to dawdle, however, farmers will learn what the National Cotton Council and other farm organizations are doing to convince legislators that agriculture demands immediate attention.

“Our interest is to use every resource we have to pressure Congress to pass a farm bill as early as possible after they return from recess,” says Mark Lange, vice president and policy analysis and program coordinator for the National Cotton Council.

“Failure to move quickly will threaten Congress' ability to deliver the levels of support that were discussed in the fall of 2001,” Lange says. “Budget and scoring concerns could erode funding for agriculture.”

Also scheduled for the conference is a textile industry update focusing on challenges the industry faces from increased imports and declining profits.

Market analysts will provide outlooks for the 2002 crop year.

Lange says a few positive signs, including potential for reduced acreage in the United States, China and the Southern Hemisphere, may affect markets.

“The Southwest Crops Production Conference has turned into an important event for High Plains producers,” says Shawn Wade, with the Plains Cotton Growers, Inc, a co-sponsor of the conference.

“This is a very informative conference that brings some of our national information sources into Lubbock to discuss the key issues facing our farmers. Our High Plains growers get to interact with their association representatives who deal with these issues on a daily basis.”

In addition to speakers from the National Cotton Council, the Texas A&M Extension Service and Experiment Station, the Texas Department of Agriculture, the Noble Foundation, and cotton marketing associations are scheduled to participate in this year's conference.

A panel of growers will discuss the value of crop diversification, emphasizing cotton, peanuts, grains, vegetables and cattle.

Farmers also get updates on latest production practices, boll weevil eradication status, alternate crop opportunities and regulatory issues. Speakers will discuss environmental issues, including maintaining farm and ranch land for wildlife and preventive measures for bio-terrorism.

Jim Bordovsky, Texas A&M Experiment Station, will discuss research on irrigation efficiency. In addition to the production seminar, the trade show will feature the area's top suppliers of agricultural products and technology.

Sponsors for the Southwest Crops Production Conference and Expo include: Southwest Farm Press, Plains Cotton Growers, Inc., the Texas Cooperative Extension Service, the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, Texas Tech University, and USDA-ARS, in Lubbock.

Continuing education units will be available through the Texas Department of Agriculture and The Texas Crop Consultants Association.

Registration for the conference, held in the Lubbock Civic Center, is free. Lunch will be available for a minimal fee. Sponsors encourage early registration to estimate lunch needs. Participants who pre-register will be eligible for door prizes.

For more information on attendance or to reserve booth space, contact Southwest Farm Press at 662-624-8503.

rsmith@primediabusiness.com