Business

Ag trade show opens Monday at TRAC

PASCO -- The Mid-Columbia's biggest agricultural convention and trade show of the year opens Monday with an emphasis on the range of issues farmers are facing entering a new decade.

The Real Ag 2010 Convention and Trade Show kicks off Monday evening with a discussion on the environment, biofuels and carbon credits.

The annual program is about showcasing agriculture, one of the mainstays of the state economy, said Nikki Gerds, executive director, Pasco Chamber of Commerce, which has organized the show for about two decades.

It started out as farm fair and evolved into a multiple event show over the years providing networking and educational opportunities to farmers and agri-business owners, Gerds said.

The convention runs from Tuesday through Wednesday at TRAC in Pasco. On Tuesday, Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., will talk about the status of the dams on the lower Snake River at 8:10 a.m.

Admission to the show is $5.

The show is a source of new ideas and technology for farmers, and it also helps them learn about policy issues that affect agriculture and related businesses, said Gary Middleton, who grows organic apples, cherries and blueberries near Eltopia.

For the general public, the show is an opportunity to "come out and see what's happening in agriculture," Middleton said.

The chamber, with the help of partners like Columbia Basin College, Washington State University and the Port of Pasco, is bringing experts to talk about fields including crop nutrition, resource conservation and renewable energy, Gerds said.

The idea also is to make people realize that agriculture responds to technology and science like other sectors of the economy, offering new areas for growth of business, she said.

This year's show also will include hands-on GPS demonstrations and tips on how to choose high-quality hay for horses, Gerds said.

The opening night event called Fire Back, to be held CBC, will include a presentation on an alternative approach to environmental stewardship by Todd Myers, director of the Center for the Environment at Washington Policy Center.

The session runs from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Tickets for the opening discussion forum cost $35, and reservations will be taken through noon Monday. For more information, call 547-9755.

Larry Mason, advisory board, Center for the Environment at WPC and project coordinator for the Rural Technology Initiative at the University of Washington, will discuss biofuels, and Todd Wynn, program director for climate change and energy policy at Oregon's Cascade Policy Institute, will speak about carbon credits and cap-and-trade legislation.

"The goal is to create policy papers that will get pushed in Washington and stabilize, or change, the regulations (agricultural) industry has endured," Gerds said.

This year, the chamber has created scholarships, which will come from the ag show proceeds, to support agribusiness students, she said.

Also, two new award categories, Agriculture Advisor of the Year and Agribusiness Man/Woman of the Year have been added to the Mid-Columbia Ag Hall of Fame, she said.

The Ag Hall of Fame showcases those who have dedicated much of their lives to promoting the agricultural community and helping others through public service.

This year, Ron and Rella Reimann and Porky Thomsen of T&R Farms and Prosser area resident Bud Mercer have been selected as Agricultural Pioneers of the Year and inducted into the Ag Hall of Fame.

Other 2010 Ag Hall of fame inductees include Mesa farmer Steve Cooper, who was chosen the Agribusiness Person of the Year, and Tim and Marlene Tippett, who were selected as the Agriculture Advisor of the Year.

The winners will be honored at the 10th annual Agriculture Hall of Fame Gala on Thursday at Columbia Basin College's Gjerde Center. Cost is $240 for a table of eight or $35 per ticket. You can buy tickets through Tuesday.

-- Pratik Joshi: 582-1541; pjoshi@tricityherald.com; Business Beat blog at www.tricityherald.com

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