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Big Iron a big deal

Rachel Neumann, 11, of Emerson, Man., examines a John Deere combine displayed Tuesday by RDO during Big Iron at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Bob Wehde makes it to the Big Iron Farm Show just about every year.

Though he's retired from farming now, the Aberdeen, S.D., resident enjoys the show's exhibits.

"I like looking at all the farm equipment," he said.

The 29th version of the annual farm show started strong Tuesday, despite falling crop prices and a late wheat harvest.

The three-day show, which ends Thursday at the West Fargo fairgrounds, has about 800 exhibits and is expected to attract 80,000 visitors.

"So far, things look good," said Bryan Schulz, Red River Valley Fair and Big Iron general manager.

The show remains popular because it offers "anything and everything ag-related in one location," he said.

He said it's too early to predict whether attendance might suffer because some area farmers still are harvesting wheat, the region's most important crop.

Only 56 percent of North Dakota wheat and 68 percent of Minnesota wheat is harvested, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

This year's harvest, which normally is wrapping up in mid-September, was delayed by cool weather this summer and planting delays this spring.

Crop prices have plunged this fall, in part because a good harvest is expected.

For instance, wheat, which brought more than $6 per bushel this summer, now sells for less than $5 per bushel.

Schulz said there's no diminished enthusiasm from the show's 600 exhibitors, who have a combined 800 exhibits.

Dwaine Minor, a retired farmer from Brookings, S.D., said he was enjoying his first trip to Big Iron.

"If there's a problem, it's that there's too much to see," he said.

Big Iron features international flavor as equipment market goes global

Recep Konuk likes the agricultural equipment and products manufactured in North Dakota.

His organization might even buy some of them.

"There are many similarities" between Turkey and North Dakota, including growing many of the same crops and consequently needing much of the same ag equipment, said Konuk, chairman of the board of Pankobirlik, Turkey's largest sugar beet cooperative.

Konuk is one of 170 international farm and ranch buyers from 15 countries attending the North Dakota Trade Office's International Visitors Program, which is being held in conjunction with the Big Iron Farm Show in West Fargo.

The Trade Office program seeks to connect the foreign buyers with farm equipment manufacturers and dealerships in the state.

The 170 buyers paid their own way to Big Iron, a sure sign that North Dakota ag products remain in strong demand despite the worldwide recession, said Susan Geib, executive director of the Trade Office.

Tom Shorma, president of Wahpeton, N.D.-based WCCO Belting, was among many North Dakota business representatives visiting with the foreign buyers at Big Iron.

His company, which gets more than half of its revenue from foreign customers, manufactures rubber conveyor belting for agricultural and industrial markets.

Shorma said Tuesday that he already had lined up one new foreign distributor.

"There's a lot of benefit for us to be here," he said.

If you go

* What: Big Iron Farm Show

* When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and Thursday

* Where: Red River Valley Fairgrounds, West Fargo

* Cost/contact: Free. (800) 456-6408 or (701) 282-2200.