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Many look ahead at Northern Illinois Farm Show

People explore the Northern Illinois Farm Show at the Convocation Center on Thursday.
People explore the Northern Illinois Farm Show at the Convocation Center on Thursday.

DeKALB – Brian Basting compared crop price forecasting to the fortune-telling scene at the beginning of “Wizard of Oz.”

In the film, the character Professor Marvel goes through items in Dorothy’s basket to aid in his phony claim to have seen the future. Basting said that’s comparable to the way different agencies and experts use current farming conditions to predict future prices.

There is no reliable way to predict prices, he said.

“We can’t predict price, but utilizing risk management can lead to a happy ending,” Basting said.

Basting a commodity research analyst with Bloomington-based Advance Trading, and Brent Kieser, a branch broker with the firm, were the keynote presenters Thursday at the 2013 Northern Illinois Farm Show. The show featured a number of presentations and exhibitions for farmers and producers in northern Illinois.

Around the Convocation Center at Northern Illinois University, farmers including Gerald Klein maneuvered between the different exhibitions showcasing the new tools, equipment, and farming techniques.

Klein, a farmer from West Brooklyn, said Thursday was his first time at the farm show.

“It’s interesting,” Klein said. “I wanted to see what it’s like.”

Klein said he did not think 2013 would be as good a year for him as 2012, when a prolonged drought caused a spike in crop prices.

Regardless of whether a farmer gets too much or too little rain, companies like HUB International Midwest can help by providing weather insurance, which is a supplement to crop insurance, said Kevin Allgood, the company’s senior vice president of agribusiness.

“It’s a great way to protect yourself if you have a bad summer,” Allgood said, adding that crop insurance only goes so far. Allgood said they had an 80 percent payout this year, meaning that 80 percent of their policyholders received some benefit.

In the future, Allgood said he expected more volatile weather, but also more bio-engineered farm seed being used by food producers.

“If you get the right seed, you’ll still be able to grow,” Allgood said.

The conference featured 250 exhibitors from seven states. Some companies, like Allgood’s, made their farm show debut this year. For Renk Seed, an agriculture company based in Sun Prairie, Wis., it was their third year, district sales manager Justin Engelking said.

The company sells both traditional and genetically modified seeds, which Engelking sees as the future. He said a lot of today’s crops are modified to make them resistant to insects and herbicides.

“It has to keep growing and advancing,” Engelking said of the farming industry. “With more people out there and the acreage not going up, the [crop] yield has to get better.”

Last year’s Northern Illinois Farm Show drew more than 8,000 attendees, said officials from IDEAg, a company that has organized trade shows like it for the past 20 years. Sales manager Samantha Kaplan said she did not have official numbers as of Thursday afternoon, but she said attendance was greater than last year.

Kaplan said she hoped to add more educational opportunities for farmers and food producers in future editions of the event.

“These producers want to learn about new markets and technologies,” Kaplan said. “So we want to make sure that we offer that [opportunity].”

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