This isn't a normal year. But there's at least one sign of normalcy: The Prairie Grains Conference — considered by many to be the unofficial start of the farm meeting season in northeast North Dakota and northwest Minnesota — will be held despite the coronavirus pandemic on Dec. 10, albeit online.
"Virtual was the only way to go this year. Unfortunately, It won't be quite the same without the personal connection. But we really think it's going to be informative and useful," said Charlie Vogel, executive director of the Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers. His organization, the North Dakota Grain Growers Association and Minnesota Barley are listed as conference sponsors, with a number of other farm and crop organizations also involved.
Historically, the two-day event is held at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks, N.D. This year, Prairie Grains will be condensed into a single day and held online.
But most of Prairie Grain's distinctive features — including three keynote speakers, wheat and soybean research reporting sessions and a number of breakout sessions — return. So does the exhibit hall, though, like the rest of this year's event, it will be held virtually. More than 20 ag organizations will participate as exhibitors, Vogel said.
Here are the three keynote speakers on Nov. 10:
9:05 a.m. — Daryl Ritchison, meteorologist of the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network, will speak on how the 2021 crop season will be affected by weather trends and cycles. The look-ahead session at weather in the upcoming year is a staple of Prairie Grains.
11 a.m. — Ambassador Gregg Doud, chief agricultural negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, will speak on trade presentations. His presentation will be live and will take questions. It's the only Prairie Grain session that won't be recorded.
1 p.m. — John Newton, chief economist of the American Farm Bureau Federation, will provide an ag economic outlook, covering such topics as marketing conditions and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As in the past, there will be a number of breakout sessions running concurrently from 10:05 a.m. to 10:40 a.m. and from 2:30 p.m. to 3:05 p.m. Many will involve wheat, barley and soybeans, but sessions on other topics such as crop marketing will be held, too.
There is no fee to attend, but preregistration is required for both the educational sessions and virtual exhibit hall. To preregister, go to https://bit.ly/2JmHT7T.
Also of note to some Minnesota and North Dakota farmers:
The North Dakota Grain Growers Association will hold its annual business meeting virtually at 4 p.m. Dec. 9. Members will be notified by a separate invitation.
The Minnesota Wheat and Minnesota Barley annual business meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Dec. 9 via Zoom. Members will be contacted in a separate invitation.