Rice, nuts deliver profits
New state requirements play role in brisk sales of equipment
By TIM HEARDEN
COLUSA, Calif. -- Large-equipment vendors at the 48th annual farm show here say business in the past couple of years has been brisk.
As some producers have continued to struggle through a sluggish economy, growers of this area's most prevalent crops -- rice and nuts -- have had money to spend.
At Valley Truck and Tractor here, tractors have been selling as soon as they've arrived in the shop, due in part to new state requirements for farmers to replace their old diesel engines with cleaner burning models, corporate service manager Matt Dixon said.
"The commodities are doing well," Dixon said. "We've been going pretty good for two years."
So, too, has the Salida, Calif.-based Flory Industries, which specializes in nut-harvesting equipment.
"It's going to be a good year," sales representative Dane Denlinger said. "The farmers have been getting good prices for their crops, and it makes a difference."
The Flory and Valley Truck and Tractor displays were among more than 300 vendors who showed up to this year's Colusa Farm Show on Feb. 5-7.
Organizers estimate as many as 40,000 visitors typically attend the event, at which tractors and other large equipment fill the parking lot and some lawn areas at the fairgrounds while smaller products are displayed indoors.
Large crowds flocked to the farm show's first day, perhaps to beat rain that was anticipated later in the week.
"As long as I've been coming, this is one of the biggest Tuesdays we've ever had," said Dave Zwald, a former equipment dealer in Colusa who's on the farm show board. "Usually Wednesday is our biggest day."
Among the attendees was 3-year-old Wyatt Bell, who was having fun climbing into the driver's seat of a John Deere backhoe.
"He loves machinery," said his dad, Mike Bell. "We're just here because little boys love machinery."
Vendors here have said for the past several years that their sales have been good and getting better, buoyed by strength in prices for rice, nuts and other crops grown in the Central Valley.
Production and sales of almonds and walnuts have been sharply escalating in recent years because of global demand, as health-conscious consumers seek nutritious snacks and food ingredients.
Meanwhile, rice production rose slightly last year from 2011 levels, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.
For the San Leandro, Calif.-based Cummins West Inc., which specializes in providing power units and booster pumps for irrigation systems, farmers' good fortune has been theirs, too.
"We're heavily involved in the nut harvest," territorial manager John Ray said. "Everyone has been pretty fortunate."
Events such as the Colusa Farm Show enable Ray and other Cummins representatives to cultivate new clients, he said.
"We talk to a lot of the end users and build relationships from there, and they talk to our distributors," Ray said. "It's a very good tool to talk to end users."
Colusa Farm Show: http://www.thefarmshow.com/