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Corn+Soybean Digest

Estrogen Found in Soy Stimulates Human Breast-Cancer Cells in Mice

The findings of three studies, funded by the National Institutes of Health, are detailed in the Journal of Nutrition (November), Carcinogenesis (October) and Cancer Research (July).

The results demonstrate that genistein in various forms stimulates tumor growth. They also suggest that women with estrogen-dependent breast cancer or a predisposition to it may want to reduce their consumption of soy products with a high isoflavone content, says William G. Helferich, a UI professor of food science and human nutrition.

Many soy isoflavone-containing products are marketed to women over age 50 for the relief of menopausal symptoms.

"Our pre-clinical laboratory animal data suggest that caution is warranted regarding the use of soy supplements high in isoflavones for women with breast cancer, particularly if they are menopausal," says Helferich, who was the principal researcher on the papers.

For most people, soy is a healthy food and can be used as part of a healthy diet, he says. Isolated soy protein had been found in previous UI studies to effectively lower cholesterol. Studies elsewhere have shown potential relief of menopausal symptoms and protection against cancer.

In the Journal of Nutrition, Helferich and colleagues show that the estrogen-dependent tumors implanted into experimental mice models grow at a rate in proportion to the levels of genistein consumed. Researchers used athymic mice that lack the ability to reject human cancer cells.

After inserting breast cancer cells, researchers were able to closely monitor the dietary estrogen to stimulate tumor growth. Genistein at or above 250 parts per million, a dosage that produces blood levels similar to what is observed in women consuming soy diets, was enough to stimulate tumor growth.

In the paper in Carcinogenesis, the researchers compared the isoflavone in its two forms, as a glycoside (genistin, as it appears in plants) and aglucone (genistein). They found that both forms produced similar tumor growth rates, and that the conversion of genistin to genistein in the body begins with contact with saliva in the mouth.

In Cancer Research, Helferich compared soy protein isolates containing varying levels of isoflavones. The researchers found that estrogen-dependent tumor growth increased as the isoflavone content increased in the soy-containing diet.

Lugar blasts Senate farm bill in editorial

Lugar, the principle author of the much-maligned Freedom to Farm legislation Congress passed in 1996, made his comments in an “Op Ed” article entitled “The Farm Bill Charade” in the Jan. 21 New York Times.

In the article, Lugar, who owns a 604-acre hog and soybean farm in his home state of Indiana, conceded that his own farm bill proposal, which is based on a crop revenue insurance scheme, was defeated 70-30 before the Senate adjourned for the holidays in December.

Lugar criticized the Daschle-Harkin bill, named for Senators Tom Daschle, the majority leader in the Senate, and Tom Harkin, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which reported the bill out in November.

“Passage of the Daschle-Harkin bill would halt attempts ro reform America’s distorted agricultural policy,” he said in the Times’ article. “It would, indeed, commit still more money to that policy, adding $73.5 billion, over 10 years, on top of the $98.5 billion that would go to maintaining current programs.

“Such huge increases are out of line at a time when the United States is fighting a sluggish economy and a life-or-death war on terrorism.”

Lugar, the chairman of the Senate Ag Committee until Democrats gained control of the Senate last summer, charged that “ineffective agricultural policy” has led to overproduction of many heavily supported crops.

“The government has provided essentially a guaranteed income to producers of these crops,” he noted. “So those farmers keep producing more crops than the market wants, which keeps the price low — so low that these farmers continually ask the government for more subsidies, which they get.”

Nowhere in the article does Lugar mention that he was the principal author of the Federal Agricultural Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 or Freedom to Farm.

“In 1995, Sen. Lugar was holding forth in major media outlets, proudly boasting of the farm bill that he and the grain trade foisted on Rural America,” said Harvey Joe Sanner, a farmer from Des Arc, Ark.

“That legislation, dubbed Freedom to Farm, has been categorized as a dismal failure by all honest assessments. In essence, a new farm bill is needed to clean up the mess that Sen. Lugar’s bill created.”

In the Times article, Lugar said current American agricultural policy “distorts food prices, frustrates innovation, limits product diversity and subsidizes a select group of farmers at enormous public cost. The majority of payments in most states go to the top tenth of farmers.”

Lugar outlined the basics of his farm bill proposal, noting that it would provide an alternative safety net for all crop and livestock producers: “Each farmer would receive a federal payment equaling 6 percent of total farm receipts. This would enable the farmer to pay the premium for whole-farm income insurance that would provide assurance of 80 percent of an average income taken over a five-year period.”

The five years would encompass the most recent period, which saw farmer incomes drop to some of their lowest levels in history.

Senate leaders have indicated that they will bring up the Daschle-Harkin bill shortly after the Senate returns with an objective of passing it and sending it to a House-Senate conference committee that will attempt to reconcile it with the House bill.

Although Democrats tried to invoke cloture on the bill to bring it to a vote before Christmas, they were unable to muster the 60 votes needed to cut off debate. They are not expected to be any more successful when the legislation is brought up again.

Several senators have already indicated they will introduce a number of amendments, including one that would include new payment limits, when the legislation comes to the Senate floor.

Farm organizations have said a new farm bill is needed quickly to enable farmers to complete financing arrangements for their 2002 crops.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com.

Beltwide: Better varieties require attitude change?

Cotton breeders are concentrating efforts on developing higher yielding, higher quality cottonseed varieties, many of which will be genetically enhanced to deliver desirable output traits for farmers, mills and consumers.

That effort alone may not be enough to maintain the profitability of the cotton industry, according to Dan Krieg, a cotton farmer and plant physiologist with Texas Tech University in Lubbock.

Krieg, who was among a group of cotton breeders participating in a panel discussion at the 2002 Beltwide Cotton Conference in Atlanta, says, “The cotton industry must unite to protect and maintain some semblance of prosperity if we are going to keep the economy of the southern states in tact.”

What is needed, he says, is to “change some attitudes.”

Krieg challenges breeders to begin variety improvements by changing the attitude of the cotton plant. “The cotton plant is a woody perennial with an indeterminate growth habit, which doesn’t have to produce seed to survive. So any little anomaly in the environment causes it to do things that allow it to survive as a plant, but that are detrimental to lint productivity. Often, the cotton plant either quits producing fruiting sites or aborts existing fruit, making it extremely difficult to manage.”

“During the past 20 years we have put a tremendous amount of emphasis on biotechnology and the delivery of this technology to producers. But in most cases, it’s been to the detriment of the other variety development disciplines, because resources are limited. There weren’t additional dollars that went with the focus on biotechnology,” he says.

The most efficient path from genes to jeans, according to Krieg, will require an integrated program with both public and private entities working as one.

“If we are going to make this industry profitable, and maintain the effort and support needed, we’re going to have to quit functioning as individuals and bring the whole system together,” he says. “This type of integrated approach is long overdue. We’ve talked about it for 25 years, and while there is very little evidence it is in existence now, it needs to be if this industry is going to survive.”

Roy Cantrell with Cotton Incorporated in Raleigh, N.C., admits that there is a “severe deficiency” in germplasm and population development, particularly in the public sector. That’s why Cotton Incorporated is coordinating an early generation germplasm testing program. The initiative aims to accelerate the development and enhancement of germplasm with an emphasis on genetically enhanced output traits.

What Cotton Incorporated is trying to do, Cantrell says, is to expand and enhance cottonseed development. “Cotton Incorporated is not interested in becoming a seed company,” he says.

Another concern among farmers when it comes to variety development, Krieg says, is the cost associated with these new, improved cottonseed varieties.

“As a farmer, I’m particularly concerned with the rising cost of inputs, and as we add these new traits, there’s no question the cost of that seed is going to go up. In the high plains in Texas, seed has gone from a no-cost budget line item just five to 10 years ago to what is now a very significant cost,” he says. “The more we add to cottonseed the greater the cost is going to be. And with 35-cent cotton, it’s hard to keep adding costs. I can’t tell you where it is going to stop, but I can tell you that as we keep adding traits, cottonseed is going to get more expensive.”

e-mail: dmuzzi@primediabusiness.com

Beltwide: More benefits from skip-row cotton?

“We are searching for any way we can to reduce the cost of production without reducing our gross income, “ said Robert McLendon, a Leary, Ga. cotton producer. “There is interest in skip-row because most of the cost of production we have now is on a row basis with the use of Bollgard and Roundup Ready technology.”

Growers can reduce down-the-row inputs in skip-row because they plant fewer feet of row per acre with the practice. And hopefully, cotton plants next to the skip will compensate by growing larger and producing more fruit.

The panel discussed the pros and cons of the practice during the 2002 Beltwide Cotton Conference in Atlanta.

When Clarkedale, Ark., cotton producer Allen Helms Jr., went to skip-row cotton in 2001, he went all the way converting 7,500 acres. He had no cotton in conventional row spacing this year.

“We felt like we could make more money on the skip in cotton than we could if we had more acres in grain,” Helms said. “And we wouldn’t have to buy a lot of new equipment. On one operation, we converted four-row pickers to skip-row at a cost of about $10,000 each. We went from covering four rows with each pass to four rows and two-skips.”

Helms, who irrigates about 75 percent of his land, did reduce his down-the-row costs, “however I wasn’t able to band some insecticides that I thought I could. Another cost is the boll weevil eradication fee. That assessment is paid based on the land acres.”

Helms increased his seedling rate in skip-row cotton by 10-15 percent. “Looking back, that might have been too much. I was concerned that skippy, skip-row cotton might present a greater problem than skippy, solid cotton. I used hardly any Pix on the skip-row because I wanted to encourage the plants to grow into the skips.”

Jimmy Hargett, Bells, Tenn., noted, “If you’re on 30-inch rows and you go to skip-row, you’re going to save a third on a lot of the inputs.

“You can also plant faster, depending on what kind of rig you have. We have a 12-row planter and we’re getting over 45 feet per pass,” Hargett said.

Hargett figures he’s getting a 5-10 percent more yield per acre with a skip-row configuration. “But I’d have been tickled to get the same. I think it’s a way we can raise cheaper cotton.”

Jerry Hoelscher, Midland, Texas, has put his 40-inch, 2-1 skip-row cotton under drip irrigation. The area typically receives less than 3-inches of rain during the growing season.

Hoelscher’s yields are 850 to 1,100 pounds with the system. “I’m also able to mine 33 percent more nutrients from skip row.”

In the fall, Hoelscher runs a stalk chopper through the field. In the spring, he’ll plant with a John Deere MaxEmerge planter with trash wheels. He also has a cultivator with a guidance system, a spray bar and a front-wheel assist tractor. “That’s not a lot of investment and we don’t make a lot of trips across the field.”

Larry McClendon, Marianna, Ark., planted about 1,000 acres of skip-row in 2001. “Our motivation was simply to cut costs. All of my highly productive, dryland acres are in solid cotton. We’re putting the skip-row cotton on areas where we had never had strong production.

“We haven’t had a lot of problems,” McClendon said of skip-row. “I farm with 12-row equipment, so changing over was real simple. We didn’t buy any special equipment or make any special changes.”

McClendon no-tilled his skip-row cotton, however, “I did cultivate one field that followed soybeans because I ended up with some Roundup Ready soybeans in the field, which was Roundup Ready cotton.”

McClendon noted that his skip-row configuration did not yield as well as his solid cotton, “but again it is on lesser soils in a little different environment. The positive side is that it did yield better than those farms did in years past. We did have a reduction in down-the-row inputs to the tune of $40 to $50 per acre. We’re going to try it one more year.”

“On the very best of soils, you may take an 8-percent yield reduction in skip-row versus solid cotton,” said David Parvin, a Mississippi State University economist. “But your cost savings are going to more than offset that. On some of our mixed ground, you may actually have a yield increase with skip-row. When you get into the heavy soils, where we shouldn’t be planting cotton, but where we do sometimes, then there’s no advantage at all.”

However, “It worked better for us where soils were extremely heavy with a high pH,” said Helms. “I wouldn’t have expected that. But weather could have been a factor. I’m not real sure.”

Don Shurley, a University of Georgia economist, conducted six replicated skip-row tests at five locations and at press time had completed economic analyses on four of them.

“Based on one year of study, we found out that the savings are potentially more than just down-the-row costs. Anything you can put down the row, you can save costs on — inputs like seed, tech fees, starter fertilizer.”

In addition, “When you widen the planter out, every time you go through the field, you’re covering more ground with your trip up and down. So a lot depends on how you work your machinery to handle that skip pattern.”

Shurley’s research indicated that with 38-inch, 4X1 skip-row, with a 50-inch skip, “we had savings of 7 percent. If it’s a 2X1 full skip, we save a third. On a 2X1 with a 50-inch skip, we saved roughly 14 percent. On a 4X1, full-skip, we saved 20 percent.”

Shurley pointed out that the most consistent pattern was a 2X1, 50-inch skip-row pattern. “That gave us comparable or better yields and comparable or better net returns of the tests that we looked at.”

“We learned that we have a lot to learn,” said Robert McLendon. “One unknown is how much Pix to put out. We’re going to have to put some Pix on skip-row cotton, in irrigated cotton in south Georgia. But skip-row did save me 10 to 11 percent in costs, and I made about the same amount of cotton.”

e-mail: erobinson@primediabusiness.com

CAWG sulfur drift plan expands to herbicides

Joseph A. Browde, project coordinator for CAWG’s Pest Management Alliance (PMA), explained how it is being done in a talk at the recent conference in San Jose of the California Weed Science Society.

Established in 2000, PMA is a partnership between wine grape growers and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.

Its management group comes from the ranks of growers, university Cooperative Extension specialists, USDA, EPA, and others. It is funded by about $200,000 in grants from DPR, growers, and wineries. More than half of the PMA’s activities are supported by voluntary, in-kind contributions.

Browde said the alliance came about as a result of wine grape growers increasing awareness of pesticide concerns that could threaten their businesses. He said it is committed to a sound, proactive approach to help sustain the industry.

Implementation of the Food Quality Protection Act, the increasing interface between agriculture and urbanization throughout the state, increased understanding of off-target movement of pesticides, and heightened concerns with worker exposure all brought about the public’s mounting awareness.

‘Prepare for future’

"Growers realized they’d better get their act together and prepare for the future," Browde said. The thrust was to consider the wine grape industry, the general public and the environment, simultaneously.

Tied in philosophy to several efforts, including the new Sustainable Winegrowing Practices, PMA fosters adoption of integrated pest management systems with various wine grape grower groups.

PMA is grower-driven and has a polished mission statement. "There have been reports of high-profile drift when it comes to sulfur dust across the state. We also want to minimize herbicide use that can influence water quality or are currently listed high on the priority list of FQPA," Browde said.

Educating the general public in such matters is crucial to the sustainability of agriculture, he said. Sulfur became an issue as it emerged during 1997 to 1999 in 86 reports of sulfur drift handled by county agricultural commissioners throughout the state. Sixty-six of those reports pertained to grapes, and most of them were public complaints at the urban-ag interface.

A sulfur task force was formed in 1999 with registrants, who developed a supplemental label and a stewardship program for all sulfur products.

PMA is collaborating with the sulfur task force and specializes in the public education outreach to sensitive areas, those of human activity, he said.

Challenges

"The public has to realize the challenges of grape growing and pest management. We want the public to realize there are worst alternatives than sulfur. We believe if we get that part right, we can decrease public complaints."

Browde said PMA is not out to eliminate products. "We just want to keep everything around so that uses are warranted and things are done most safely. Reduced risk practices are available and we want to get the word out to growers around the state."

In its campaign relating to herbicides, CMA seeks to minimize risks from herbicides, which would include limiting use of "problematic" herbicides used in vineyards. Among those are several compounds under scrutiny for water quality or FQPA issues. Of them, only Roundup is listed as a lower risk material.

"Wine growers are concerned because not a lot is left off these lists. So, again, we are not saying not to use something but we are about keeping something in our arsenal where warranted."

PMA surveyed grape growers across the state to learn what they consider lower risk practices. Principles included are good, scientific information on soils and weed species, the amount of weeds that are economic and can be left in the field, and the elements of reduced risk.

Among the reduced-risk practice alternatives for weed control are the venerable French plow and other machinery, mowing or mulching, heating or flaming, and use of subsurface drip irrigation.

Among practices for reduced chemical use are lower rates per acre either by swath width under vines, calibration adjustments, closer timing to target weed susceptibilities, and rotation with higher-risk materials.

"We want growers to become alert to what’s going on in their fields. They won’t have to use these every year, but maybe every second or fourth year."

The alliance has been using field demonstrations, presented by growers, to get the word out to other growers at various sites up and down the state. All along, the group seeks to have "a rational dialog" with the public about these practices.

Browde said PMA has attracted support of major wineries, such as Kendall-Jackson, E & J Gallo, Mondavi, and Canandaigua, to "buy-in" with the effort with support.

Moving plans for the coming season, he said PMA is adding growers to showcase their reduced-risk vineyard practices and expand the educational base.

Growers and PCAs have been approached for input, the next step is Spanish-language presentations for workers, and a third element is heightened information to the public.

"The future is full of change – it always will be," Browde concluded. "We want to make sure our growers know the options. Proactivity is the key, so we will continue to try to anticipate change, to be there to try to come up with solutions. If you are there, being proactive vs. reactive, you can be part of the change."

Almond Board training

The Almond Board of California is offering reduced cost Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) training to almond handlers this month.

The two-day workshop will further educate handlers on the importance of food safety and the steps needed to maintain a HACCP program within their operations.

For more information about the Almond Board sponsored HACCP training, call Merle Jacobs at (209) 343-3222 or Tom Krugman at (209) 343-3221.

Bush expected to support $73 billion farm programs

The Bush administration says it will support providing an additional $73.5 billion in funding for farm programs over the next 10 years when Congress returns from its Christmas-New Year's recess Jan. 23.

In a letter written to Rep. Larry Combest, R-Texas, shortly after the Senate failed to pass a farm bill in mid-December, White House officials gave the House Agriculture Committee chairman assurances that the administration would continue its support for the funding.

But some farm organizations are continuing to question whether Congress will pass new farm legislation before it adopts a new budget resolution that could wipe out the $73.5 billion allocation in last year's budget agreement.

“The president has been very clear about the policy we need to build long-term prosperity for America's farmers and ranchers,” said Mitch Daniels, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. “The president also has been clear about the need for a generous farm bill in order to help farmers and ranchers through this difficult period.

“As a result, you have our commitment that the administration will continue to support additional 10-year program funding of $73.5 billion in accordance with the Congressional Budget Resolution.

Combest released the text of the letter after a bruising week that saw the Senate fail to invoke cloture on the farm bill debate on two occasions. The second came after the Senate defeated the Cochran-Roberts amendment, which the administration supported, and tried to take up the Senate Agriculture Committee bill, which it opposed.

Numerous farm organizations and Combest and Rep. Charles Stenholm, D-Texas, the ranking minority member on the House Ag Committee, had urged the Senate to complete action on the farm bill before Christmas so that it could go to a House Senate conference committee during the New Year's recess.

Handicap farmers

Farm organization leaders said the failure to pass a new farm bill shortly after Congress returns in January would handicap farmers seeking financing for their 2002 crops since most commodity prices are below many farmers' costs of production. Others were concerned about the budget outlook.

“If Congress does not pass a new farm bill before it writes a new budget resolution, we will be lucky to get half of the $73.5 billion that was allocated for additional farm spending in 2001,” said one farm organization vice president. (Last year's budget resolution was passed in May.)

“We're being told that the president has been willing to guarantee the $73.5 billion for the farm bill because the funds will have to come from the Social Security Trust Fund,” said the American Agriculture Movement's Harvey Joe Sanner.

“Can you imagine the outcry from the Environmental Working Group, the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute if that happens?”

Farm organizations also continued to question the efforts of some long-time allies when the chips were down on the Senate's failure to invoke cloture on the farm bill shortly before Christmas.

During the final action on the farm bill, only four Republicans — Sens. Tim Hutchinson of Arkansas, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine — voted with Democrats to cut off debate and take up the Senate Agriculture Committee bill.

“A lot of Republicans in the South did not support cloture, and that's something they will have to explain,” said Keith Gray, a lobbyist for the Alabama Farmers Federation.

“One thing is certain, few are going to be welcomed with open arms by their constituents after three weeks of unproductive speeches, debate and posturing,” said Shawn Wade of Lubbock, Texas-based Plains Cotton Growers, Inc.

“In times past, a lack of technology prevented most people from seeing and hearing the debate over important legislative issues,” he noted. “With the spreading availability of cable, satellite television and the Internet virtually everyone can judge for themselves who is speaking for them and who has been listening to farmers.”

Many Mid-South farmers have questioned the actions of Mississippi Republican Senators Thad Cochran and Minority Leader Trent Lott during the final week of the farm bill debate.

While Cochran, who has been a staunch champion of agriculture all of his career, was on the losing side of the vote on the amendment he and Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas authored, Lott failed to vote on either the Cochran-Roberts amendment or the cloture votes.

National Cotton Council officials said they were taking a “wait and see” attitude toward Cochran, who they called an important leader on farm issues for the last decade.

“But we're going to be extremely disappointed if we continue to see a stalemate in January,” said Cotton Council President Gaylon Booker.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com.

Trees crops authority retires post

Merced County UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor Lonnie Hendricks retired last fall after devoting 41 years to the improvement of almond, walnut, pistachio, and apricot production in the San Joaquin Valley.

Raised in Placerville, the son of a farmer, Hendricks expected to follow in his father's footsteps when he leased a pear orchard right out of college. However, when pear decline afflicted the trees, decimating orchards in the Placerville area, Hendricks decided to look elsewhere for work in agriculture.

In 1960, he started with UCCE as a trainee to a Stanislaus County farm advisor and three months later moved to Merced County to fill in for a farm advisor on sabbatical. Hendricks was soon named to a permanent position. During the ensuing 40 years, he saw dramatic changes in the Merced County nut industry.

“Almonds were commonly knocked off with mallets, hand raked, and then scooped up with wire-mesh scoop shovels,” Hendricks said. “Walnuts were picked off the ground by hand into buckets and transported in burlap bags.”

Today, all commercial almonds and walnuts are mechanically shaken from trees and swept up from orchard floors with sophisticated equipment.

Plummer directs grape marketing

Cindy Plummer has joined the California Table Grape Commission to become director of domestic marketing. Plummer will be responsible for developing and directing the commission's trade-oriented programs.

“The domestic marketing position is critically important,” said Kathleen Nave, president of the commission. “On an annual basis, approximately 70 percent of the state's table grape crop is marketed in the U.S. Creating programs that motivate the retail, wholesale, and foodservice trade to carry and promote more California grapes more often is a key element of the commission's ongoing promotion efforts. We fully expect that Cindy will take the commission's trade programs to a new level.”

Nave noted that Plummer brings years of marketing experience to her new position. As the director of marketing for Washington potatoes, she oversaw a multimillion-dollar program that included working with retailers and foodservice operators, directing agency teams, and developing and managing.

Marketing campaigns that included promotion, trade relations, advertising, and public relations. Prior to her work for potatoes, Plummer worked for Pepsi out of Eugene, Ore., where she was responsible for managing broad-based marketing programs and budgets.

Plummer has a degree in business management from Linfield College in Oregon and has served in leadership positions for a variety of nonprofit and government organizations.

Farm show had no pickups, gimme caps or yardsticks

A farm show with no pickups, gimme caps, yardsticks and amazingly few plastic tote bags. And, no mud! Rain yes; mud no.

What kind of farm snow is that? One of the largest in the world, the International Exhibition of Agricultural Machinery Industries (EIMA), sponsored by the Italian Machinery Manufacturers Association. It is packed into about two dozen large modern exhibit halls at the fairgrounds in Bologna, Italy.

More than 1,700 exhibitors displayed 22,000 models covering 1,000 merchandise categories within 1.6 million square feet of exhibit space. And, no dicers and slicers in the lot. The late fall show drew more 114,000 people, mostly Italians. However, but there were more than 8,000 foreign visitors.

As a guest of the Italian Trade Commission, it was an unforgettable experience.

Several things were striking — besides no pickups, yardsticks or gimme caps. One was an amazing array of power mulchers and tillers. It was surprising since Italy receives considerable rainfall and winter chilling, ideal conditions for no-till or minimum till.

A curious difference between the farms shows at Stockton and Tulare was that producers at the Italian event gather in large groups around equipment and tractors, discussing with great animation the attributes or shortcomings of various tractor models and ag equipment.

At Stockton and Tulare, farmers go through those shows in waves, seldom stopping for any long periods at any one exhibit. At least that always seems to be the case in the Stockton and Tulare pavilions.

What is no different is the lure of big iron. The bigger the tractor, the more people surround it, whether it is in Bologna or Tulare.

And, there was plenty of big equipment, again a surprise since most of the farms we saw traveling in Northern Italy and Switzerland seemed small. There was a sugar beet harvester on display that looked like the Battleship Missouri and probably cost about the same to build.

However, then there were no pickups, yardsticks and gimme caps.

As a matter of fact, during the two weeks my wife and I were fortunate spent in Italy and Switzerland, we saw only one pickup truck. It was a 25-year-old El Camino complete with matching camper shell. It was in a Swiss industrial town of Winterthur.

I take that back. I saw a few Japanese pickups, but you really cannot count those as true pickups. They cannot haul a lot of stuff.

I asked an Irish farm equipment dealer why aren't there any pickups in Europe. He said farmers don't use them because stuff in the bed would get wet. That never stopped a U.S. farmer from buying a pickup. He said farm trucks are typically small covered vans.

I did not ask him where the farm dogs ride. In the cab or the van or do they just never go to town for parts?

I finally gave up looking for a 4×4 Silverado dually in Europe and decided to enjoy remarkable scenery, most hospitable people and a farm equipment show like no other I've visited.

e-mail: hcline@primediabusiness.com