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Ag Economist Eyes the Future

Purdue visionary will speak before Ag Alumni Fish Fry.

Mike Boehlje is one of the most respected ag economists in the country, if not the world. When the Purdue University Extension specialist speaks, people listen. Some may not be totally thrilled by what he may tell them when he leads off a busy Saturday on Feb. 2. He's the featured speaker for the traditional Purdue Ag Fish Fry forecast, which will be held at the State Fairgrounds, beginning at 9:30 a.m. EST.

The Ag Science Forecast continues a long tradition that began when the Fish Fry was a raucous affair where the Purdue Extension staff served fish to Purdue alumni and their guests, seated on rickety chairs in the drafty Purdue Armory on the Purdue campus. The Forecast and Fish Fry are still held, but now the forecast focuses on one topic, usually with one major speaker, and the Ag Fish Fry itself, while not a black tie affair, is a sit-down meal around tables with tablecloths. The featured speaker doesn't have to worry what might come out of the 'fake' eagle suspended over his head. And while there's plenty of good food, it tastes like succulent pork loin, not fish.

Boehlje will peer into his crystal ball during the forecast presentation and examine ten forces shaping agriculture. He'll be speaking in the Old National Grand Hall on Main Street, across from the Coliseum and just down the street from where the Ag Alumni Fish Fry will be held.

Boehlje recently laid the premise for his talk when he noted that it's a unique time, with growing demand for ag products both domestically and abroad. That means commodity prices are up. And higher prices are driving increased production. He believes it's a sustainable formula, but only if the industry as a whole can solve certain challenges that lie between continued success and a slide back into something more realistic, at least in historic terms.

Expect Boehlje to emphasize that crop prices aren't the only thing rising. Fertilizer and seed prices are up, and cash rents are typically up 10 to 20% based on reports flowing into the Purdue Extension specialist.

One topic he'll cover which doesn't get a lot of play is that a challenge facing agriculture has nothing to do with corn or beans per se. Instead it's figuring out how to train people with the skill sets needed to sustain and improve agriculture. Farming and agriculture today is as different as the new Purdue Ag Alumni Fish Fry is from its old predecessor of three and four decades ago. Someone must be trained to know how to run sophisticated computer and guidance equipment. They must also understand the world of biotech traits and how to manage on tight budgets.

You can hear Boehlje paint his picture of the future for free. However, fish fry tickets are $20 each. Order in advance by calling (765) 494-8593 or email: agalumni@purdue.edu.

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