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Drought’s impact on farmers worries equipment vendors

Tim Hearden

Capital Press

Large-equipment vendors at a bull sale and farm show in California say they're concerned about the impact that extreme drought will have on farmers' and ranchers' ability to afford new equipment.

COLUSA, Calif. — Josh Nelson exuded enthusiasm as he discussed a tree-trimmer and other large equipment with customers at the farm show here.

“It’s my first show, and this is pretty cool,” said Nelson, a salesman for Nelson Manufacturing Co. in Yuba City, Calif.

Nelson and his colleagues are trying to remain optimistic about their business prospects, even as a severe drought in California threatens to eat into the money farmers have to invest in new equipment.

“I think we’ll be all right,” he said as a big crowd walked through the Colusa Farm Show’s many exhibits on the event’s opening day Feb. 4.

Tractors and other large equipment filled the parking lot and lawn areas at the Colusa County Fairgrounds for the three-day festival as smaller products were showcased indoors. For the past several years, high prices in the nut and rice industries have buoyed the farm show’s vendors, whose sales have remained brisk.

Still, some vendors here and at last week’s Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale said they were concerned about the drought’s impact on farmers, for whom new equipment purchases would be the first thing to go if money is tight.

“We haven’t seen the results of the drought yet,” said Rick Smith, a regional manager of Baker City, Ore.-based Behlen Country Farm and Ranch Equipment who was selling chutes and gates at the bull sale. “But there’s a lot of guys talking about cutting their herds in half.”

Smith worries that as ranchers go out of business or look for some quick income, “you’re going to start seeing a lot of used stuff out there for sale,” he said.

“I don’t think people realize what (drought) does in a state like California,” Smith said. “It’s going to impact the way we live.”

However, the owners and representatives of large equipment dealerships are trying to keep their spirits up. Greg Kriss, who handles marketing for the Yuba City-based Orchard Machinery Corp., says there’s still some time for significant rain.

“Everyone’s got to be a little cautious in times like these,” he said as he greeted passers-by in Colusa. “But I’m cautiously optimistic. I’m hoping for a miracle March.”

Mike Schroeder, the Pacific Northwest territory manager for the Winnipeg, Manitoba-based HiQual Engineered Structures Ltd., is thankful that cattle prices are at an all-time high. He said as long as ranchers are in business, some demand for gates, feeders and other livestock equipment will remain.

“We’re in this with the producers for the long haul,” he said.

Online

Nelson Manufacturing: http://www.nelsonhardie.com

Behlen Country Farm and Ranch Equipment: http://www.behlencountry.com

Orchard Machinery Corp.: http://www.shakermaker.com

HiQual Engineered Structures Ltd.: http://hiqual.com



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