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Groups cancel or get creative with 2021 event restrictions
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Groups cancel or get creative with 2021 event restrictions

The time of year for making a list and checking it twice is gone, but farmers forming a list of what winter meetings to attend may want to look again.

A lot of meetings have been canceled, postponed or moved to an online format. Those that are being held in person may have implemented new safety rules for the winter of COVID-19.

One of the biggest examples is the Commodity Classic, an annual extravaganza that usually brings together the top leaders of the nation’s corn and soybean associations. But this year’s Commodity Classic, set for March 2-5, is an online event.

Groups such as the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union have also made their annual conventions into online events.

Another example is the National Farm Machinery Show normally held in Louisville in February. The show is still going to be held in person this year, but it has been moved from February to March 31-April 3.

The Western Farm Show in Kansas City, which was scheduled for Feb. 19-21, was canceled by the Western Equipment Dealers Association.

In a press release making the announcement in December, show manager Ken Dean said that “given the long history of this event as one of the Midwest’s premier farm shows, this is a very disappointing step to take. But it is the responsible decision for the protection of everyone involved during the current pandemic.”

But not every winter event has been cancelled or moved online. The Iowa Ag Expo, formerly known as the Iowa Power Farming Show, is still scheduled to be held in person on Feb. 2-4 in Des Moines.

“We’re not a firm believer in virtual shows,” says Cindy Feldman, director of marketing for the Iowa Nebraska Equipment Dealers Association (INEDA). “We think farmers want to kick the tires. … They still need to plant a crop.”

But even that event will look different. There will be no educational seminars. The aisles will be a bit wider and the booths deeper. The organization only requests that attendees wear masks, but the event is in Polk County, Iowa, where masks are presently required in public places. Hand sanitizer and masks will be available.

The Nebraska Ag Expo, put on by the same organization, was postponed from December until Feb. 23-25 in Lincoln, Nebraska.

At the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, COVID-19 measures this year include requiring attendees to submit their name and contact information for possible contact tracing when they register. There will be some events held virtually, and face coverings will be required.

Equipment shows and commodity group events aren’t the only things impacted. The Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit will be a virtual event on Jan. 26 this year. And a large private land investment expo hosted by People’s Company in Des Moines moved to a hybrid model on Jan. 12, allowing people to register to attend in person or to watch online.

“We’ve been keeping an eye on the (COVID-19) numbers,” said Becky Rozenboom, an event organizer for the show for People’s Company.

She said the expo moved to the Iowa Events Center several years ago and that ballroom is much larger than the hotel where it was previously held which will allow for more social distancing as organizers look to put no more than 400 people into a room that normally could hold upwards of 2,000. Masks will be required for those attending in person, and side events such as receptions or social hours have been eliminated.

Livestock shows present another challenge. The Iowa Beef Expo is scheduled for Feb. 14-21 in Des Moines. Mallory Robinson, executive director for the Iowa Beef Expo, said the event will still happen.

“We’re 99% positive we are going to be having our event. We’re excited,” she said.

She said the fact that the event will be held in open-air barns where people can be distanced from each other helps to make the event possible.

The Illinois Beef Expo is still being held but it has been moved from February until March 12-14 and the location was also changed to the Exposition Gardens in Peoria. The show format has also been changed, downsizing the event from what it normally would have been.

The Iowa Pork Congress is still being held but there will be no trade show or educational sessions. In a press release, Iowa Pork Producers Association president Mike Paustian said, “We are disappointed to cancel the trade show and to postpone some other events typically held during Iowa Pork Congress. We simply relied on our We Care Iowa core values: caring for the people in our communities and working together to solve the big issues our communities face, and today that big issue is coronavirus.”

IPPA will hold its annual meeting on Jan. 26 in Des Moines and awards will be announced both for those attending in person and those watching online. Educational seminars will move online and events such as the Taste of Elegance cooking competition have been postponed.

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Gene Lucht is public affairs editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.

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