Master Market Program set for January AS SOUTHWEST farmers head into the 2001 cropping year, many wonder what commodities and what management strategies they can employ to recover what, for many, has been a three-year cycle of downward prices, drought-reduced production and diminishing profits.

Honing marketing skills may be one answer. Rarely have farmers faced a situation where locking in a profit was more difficult or more necessary.

The Texas Agricultural Extension Service will offer two Master Marketer courses this winter, one in Vernon and one in Abilene, to help farmers improve marketing skills. Participants then can help their neighbors hone their marketing skills to a "finer edge," says Stan Bevers, Extension economist at Vernon.

"Master Marketer is a national award winning, in-depth, intensive risk management education program that teaches participants how to develop marketing plans, evaluate marketing alternatives, and manage production and price risk," Bevers says.

"It also helps teach the skills and discipline necessary to execute a marketing plan."

The 64-hour curriculum is offered as four two-day sessions held every two weeks and is the most intensive marketing/risk management training provided by Extension anywhere in United States.

"The instructors are professionals from industry and universities around the country. The course covers a wide range of topics to enhance marketing/risk management skills. Instructors use case study examples and simulation exercises wherever possible to provide students with experience using real tools they can use on their own farm and ranch operations when they leave the class," Bevers says

Results of a two-year post survey of the 1998 Vernon participants suggests that using what they have learned has increased their gross revenues approximately 5 to 10 percent (or more than $33,000) on average, annually. The average impact from programs held in Lubbock, Wharton, Vernon, and Waco is $23,900 per participant.

Statewide demand for the program continues to grow. The Vernon course will begin with a two-day session, Jan. 16-17 at the Texas Agricultural Research and Extension Center. Subsequent sessions will be Jan. 30-31, Feb. 13-14 and Feb. 27-28.

The Abilene course, scheduled at the Taylor County Extension Building, begins with a two-day session Jan. 17-18. Other sessions will be Jan. 31-Feb. 1, Feb. 14-15, and Feb. 28-March 1.

The registration fee for the program is $250, plus a commitment to work with county agents to help start a marketing club. "Most of the cost of the program is covered by grants from sponsors, including the Texas Corn Producers Board, Texas Wheat Producers Association, Texas Farm Bureau, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, and Cotton Incorporated," Bevers says.

Farmers and ranchers interested in attending or or wanting to learn more about Master Marketer programs should contact their county Extension agents. Address specific questions regarding the Vernon course to Stan Bevers at 940-552-9941. Dr. Jason Johnson, who will coordinate the Abilene program, can be contacted at 915-653-4576 in San Angelo.