Water, commodity prices, alternative enterprises, new insecticides, better cotton varieties, and up-to-date-production techniques make the 2003 Southwest Crops Conference and Expo one of the most comprehensive sessions since the event's inception five years ago.

The conference will be held in the Lubbock Civic Center Feb. 25. Registration, which is free, begins at 7:45 a.m., with the program stating promptly at 8:15. The conference runs through 5 p.m.

“We're excited about our program this year,” Said Mike Gonitzke, publisher of Southwest Farm Press, one of the conference co-sponsors. “Organizers have done a magnificent job of pulling the program together and offering information we believe will help High Plains producers improve profit potential for 2003.”

Gonitzke said farmers face many changes this year under a new farm bill. As regulations of that law continue to unfold, questions remain as how various titles in the legislation will affect individual farmers.

“A representative from the Farm Services Agency in Washington will be on hand to explain some of the details,” Gonitzke said. “We hope to get the administrator, James Little, in from Washington.”

Southwest Farm Press, Plains Cotton Growers, Inc., and the Texas Extension Service, plan to have computers and disks available to allow farmers who have not signed up for farm program benefits to begin the process.

Texas A&M University has developed software to help farmers evaluate acreage base and yields. FSA officials, who say signup for farm programs has been slow, remind growers of the April 1 deadline, after which acreage and yield bases will revert back to historical figures.

The conference also will include production techniques for cotton and grain sorghum. Carl Anderson, Texas A&M Extension economist and cotton market specialist, will discuss price and supply outlook for cotton.

Wayne Cleveland, National Grain Sorghum Producers, and Texas Corn Producers Board Chairman Joe Reed will discuss grain outlook.

Scott Orr, High Plains Underground Water District No. 1, will moderate a farmer panel and discuss the region's need to conserve irrigation water.

Steven Boston, with the Texas Department of Agriculture, will update conference participants on the latest in agricultural rules and regulations.

Attendees may receive 5 continuing education units from the Texas Department of Agriculture and 5.5 units from the Texas Certified Crop Advisers.

An agricultural expo will feature some 30 local and regional companies exhibiting some of the latest products and services.

Sponsors for the annual event include: The Plains Cotton Growers, Inc.; the Texas Cooperative Extension Service; the Texas A&M Agricultural Research Station; the USDA-ARS station at Lubbock; Texas Tech University; and Southwest Farm Press.

Organizers encourage participants to register early to help caterers plan for lunch, which will be available for a nominal fee.

Early registrants will qualify for a drawing for a new shotgun.

For registration information or other conference details call 601-624-8503 or 940-535-1484.

rsmith@primediabusiness.com