The Iowa Ag Expo had a slightly different feel in 2021.
The annual show, formerly known as the Iowa Power Farming Show, was trimmed down a bit this year, but is still one of the biggest trade shows to be held in person since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. While that meant masks and social distancing requirements, for some it was a nice change of pace to converse with farmers face-to-face.
“It’s been awesome to see people again,” Randy Timm of Beck’s Hybrids said. “… Not to complain about Zoom or any of those programs, but it’s good to see people and their smiling faces. It looks different with people with masks, but it’s certainly good to be out.”
While the show’s total attendance appeared less than in past years, Timm said he has noticed more optimism around the farmers he’s visited with, in large part due to the higher commodity prices going into the 2021 growing season.
“The conversations look a little bit different this year,” Timm said. “People are looking for a more positive return on investments by upgrading seed treatments or things of that nature.”
Motherbin’s Crystal Kopecky said the optimism was infectious to the vendors.
“It’s like a weight has been lifted,” she said. “Commodity prices are up and it seems like a bit of clearing in the air almost.”
She said farmers have been discussing ways they can be more profitable and efficient in the field. The Motherbin, which acts as temporary infield storage during harvest season, can hold 4,000 bushels, allowing farmers to limit their time transporting grain from cart to truck, she said.
“I think we are all very accustomed to having to wait,” she said. “Combines nowadays are taking more grain off the field faster than ever before, but there’s no place to put it because the truck isn’t back yet. If you can shorten your harvest by a couple of days, that can lower the expenses you are running.”
Another technology drawing some interest this year is solar power. Scott Prohaska of 1 Source Solar said one reason farmers are interested in having more predictable energy costs to help simplify budget planning.
“Whether it’s a grain system or dryer system, we are looking to lower and fix their energy costs,” Prohaska said. “As utility rates continue to go up, solar can fix and lower these costs to a few cents per kilowatt hour for the next 40 years.”
Prohaska also said while the financial benefits are drawing a lot of farmers to solar, the environmental benefits are another bonus. This could come into play as a new presidential administration has emphasized fighting climate change.
“Things are unknown, whether it will be good, bad or indifferent,” Prohaska said. “But overall, people are optimistic.”