Global impact of agriculture theme at grain conference

Published 9:56 am Wednesday, February 28, 2018

by Ben Rowe

The Virginia Grain Producers Association and Virginia Soybean Association welcomed farmers from all corners of the Commonwealth this week for the Virginia Grain & Soybean Annual Conference.

The annual event, held February 20-21, 2018 at the Richmond Westin, drew more than 200 attendees and featured local experts as well as nationally touring speakers.

The two-day conference featured an exciting slate of presenters discussing innovative strategies and opportunities for producers to achieve and maintain long-term success in the rapidly changing, and increasingly global, agriculture industry.

Day one opened with lunch and a presentation from Robert Harper, Grain Division Manager for Virginia Farm Bureau.

Robert’s presentation focused on “Marketing Strategically in 2018” and discussed both national and global trends affecting grain pricing, including weather, NAFTA, China, and the Farm Bill.

Producers next had their choice of several breakout sessions on topics including: Weed & Pest Management in Grain & Soybeans; Soil Health Strategies for Increased Yields; and Opportunities and Challenges on the Horizon.

Keynote speaker, Dhamu Thamodaran, Chief Strategy Officer and Chief Commodity Hedging Officer of Smithfield Foods, presented on the globalization of agriculture and commodities. Dhamu drew on his more than 30 years of industry experience and discussed the many international factors impacting American agriculture and the commodity markets.

Day one was capped off with an awards dinner and raffle to benefit Virginia Agriculture in the Classroom. Retiring Eastern Virginia AREC Superintendent, Bob Pitman, was recognized for his many years of service to the grain industry, including his 26 years as Secretary of VGPA and its predecessor organizations. Bob was presented with lifetime membership to both VGPA and VSA.

For the final awards presentation we saw the presentation of the Virginia Corn, Small Grain, and Soybean Yield Contest winners, including Dave Hula’s 542.27 bushel-per-acre national first place win in the “No-Till/Strip-Till Irrigated” class of the National Corn Yield Contest. This yield represents a new world record and is a testament to the sustainability and productivity of Virginia’s farms.

Day two of the program opened with the Virginia Grain Producers Association and Virginia Soybean Association annual meetings. VGPA is proud to introduce its new executive committee slate for 2018-19:

President – Jay Taliaferro

First Vice President – Don Horsley

Second Vice President – Shane Horsley

Treasurer – Ronnie Gill

Secretary – Candice Wilson

Immediate Past President – L. Wayne Kirby

Following the annual meetings, Virginia’s Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, Bettina Ring, gave a presentation on the agricultural priorities of her office and the Governor’s administration, including efforts to market Virginia agriculture products in the international market.

The group next enjoyed a presentation from Special Agent Matthew Seckers of the FBI’s Richmond Division. Matthew presented on managing security risks in trade and discussed several cases the FBI has worked on involving theft of intellectual property and seed genetics by foreign nationals.

The presentation was an intriguing reminder of the risks involved in the modern age of big data and the international agriculture trade.

We next heard from Kara Matzko and Daniel LeGrande from the Port of Virginia. As farmers face a growing crop surplus, finding new markets for Virginia grain is an increasing concern. Kara and Daniel discussed their organization’s work to both expand markets and move grain in the global market, as well as the Port’s ever growing export capabilities and the opportunity that presents to farmers.

To close out the conference agenda, Chelsea Valenti with BASF next took the stage. Chelsea provided Dicamba training and certification for the producers and applicators in the audience during a working lunch. The training provided an overview of the product and equipped the participants with certification to apply Dicamba products offered by any chemical company.

On behalf of the Virginia Grain Producers Association, and our co-host the Virginia Soybean Association, thank you to all the attendees, sponsors, and speakers who took time to participate in this year’s conference. We look forward to seeing you all next year.

BEN ROWE is the executive director of the Virginia Grain Producers Association. Contact him at 804-726-6022 or