Ag conventions during next month could bring $1.7M to Tri-Cities

By Kristi Pihl, Herald staff writerJanuary 7, 2013 

Five upcoming agriculture conventions in the Tri-Cities will bring about 3,800 people into the area in the next month.

Those visitors most likely will spend more than $1.7 million, helping small businesses and jurisdictions who receive sales and lodging taxes, said Kris Watkins, president and CEO of the Tri-Cities Visitor & Convention Bureau.

The first of the five upcoming conventions starts Tuesday. REAL Ag 2013 Convention & Trade Show, sponsored by the Pasco Chamber of Commerce and Les Schwab, runs through Wednesday and features a trade show as well as a panel discussion about transitioning to the next generation of farming.

The two largest conventions should be the Washington Oregon Potato Conference 2013 from Jan. 29-31 and the 2013 Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers annual convention from Feb. 5-8, both at Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick. They likely will bring in 1,700 and 1,500 visitors respectively, Watkins said.

Ag convention delegates spend money at hotels, restaurants, gas stations, retail and on the venue itself, Watkins said. Those who live in smaller towns combine the trips with shopping, benefiting local retailers.

Events like these weren't the norm prior to the opening of the convention center, she said, and the need to accommodate groups like the potato and the wine grape growers' is part of the reason the Three Rivers Convention Center needs to grow. Officials have argued that the lack of space means that the Tri-Cities loses out on some conventions.

"We'd like to grow along with them," Watkins said.

The ag conventions boost sustainable tourism because they occur during times of year that are normally slow, Watkins said.

"We've been very fortunate to have such a variety of crops," Watkins said.

Upcoming ag conventions:

-- Real AG 2013 on Jan. 8-9 at TRAC in Pasco. The convention includes a luncheon covering agricultural issues, a scholarship competition featuring five local high school students Tuesday, and a pesticide recertification course Wednesday. The trade show is scheduled 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days. More info:

-- The Northwest Hay Expo on Jan. 16-17 at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick, held by the Washington State Hay Growers Association. Topics include pest management, cutting economics, fuel prices, fertilizer, and variety trials. More info:

--"Golden Opportunities," the 2013 WSU Oilseed Production and Marketing Conference on Jan. 22-23 at the Three Rivers Convention Center. Topics include benefits of growing oilseeds, planning, processor update and genetics. More info:

-- The 2013 Washington Oregon Potato Conference on Jan. 29-31 at the Three Rivers Convention Center, sponsored by the Washington State Potato Commission. Topics range from efficient farming practices to the Odessa aquifer. More info:

-- The 2013 Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers annual convention Feb. 5-8 at the Three Rivers Convention Center. Topics include training tasting room staff, grape vines, mechanization, and wine tourism. More info:

--Kristi Pihl: 582-1512;

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