Clemson Extension offering farmers insight in uncertain times at Ag Outlook Conference

Educational opportunities on cooperatives, agricultural disruptors also upcoming

With inflation, supply-chain issues and uncertainty in the economy, the Clemson Cooperative Extension Service hopes to provide South Carolina’s farmers with the information needed to navigate those hurdles in one fell swoop.

The 7th Annual South Carolina Ag Outlook Conference is slated for 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 17, at the Phillips Market Center in Columbia, where Kansas State University Professor Brian Briggeman will deliver the economic outlook for 2023.

Briggeman is the director of the Arthur Capper Cooperative Center and previously worked as an economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City – Omaha Branch. The registration fee is $75, and registration is available here. The presentations will be recorded for those unable to participate live.

“For this year’s conference, we wanted to bring in a keynote speaker, Dr. Brian Briggeman, who has expertise with macroeconomics related to agriculture and U.S. macroeconomics,” Clemson Extension Agribusiness Program Team Director Nathan Smith said. “That’s certainly a key emphasis for this year’s conference: looking at the overall economy and the impact of inflation. Most economists are predicting a slow-down in the economy of some level in 2023, and we’re seeing some of that already.”

In addition to Briggeman’s economic outlook for 2023, the Clemson Extension Agribusiness Team will provide 2023 outlooks for major commodities to help identify opportunities and threats for the financial success of South Carolina producers.

“On the commodities side, we’re going to look at the major row crops for South Carolina — corn, soybeans, peanuts, cotton and wheat — in terms of the supply-and-demand situation and the price outlook given the current conditions and what’s going on here in the U.S. and around the world,” Smith said. “Droughts have impacted production globally, and that impacts what our farmers are looking at as far as prices and what the demand for commodities will look like in the year ahead.”

And the Ag Outlook Conference isn’t the only upcoming educational opportunity that Clemson Extension is offering for producers in South Carolina.

With the challenges in the economy, one way for producers to take back the power into their own hands is to combine forces and form a cooperative that allows them to act like a larger operation: purchasing inputs and accessing markets together and sharing labor and management.

One day prior at the same location, Clemson Extension will host a seminar for cooperatives and professional service providers in South Carolina entitled “Cooperative Development, Funding, and Capitalization.” This event will run from 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 16, also at the Phillips Market Center.

The seminar will cover topics including trust-building among cooperatives members, financing a cooperative using both equity and debt, and accessing both grant and loan resources from the USDA and other cooperatives. The workshop is open to existing cooperatives, those interested in starting cooperatives and professional service providers who work in rural areas.

A cooperative is a member-owned operation, in the same way that a credit union is owned by the account holders, which allows farmer to combine resources in order to gain market power and improve profitability.

“A cooperative is basically an employee-owned enterprise, but they are not really employees; they’re owners. So, in this context, it’s a farmer-owned business and the goal is to combine resources to access more markets than would be available to them as individuals — access markets, capital, labor … you name it,” said Agribusiness Senior Extension Associate Steve Richards, who directs the Center for Cooperative and Enterprise Development at Clemson University.

The meeting is provided at no cost, but space may be limited. Those interested should reserve a spot here.

Further educational opportunities are also available through monthly webinars focusing on South Carolina agriculture and possible disruptors — good and bad — affecting the state’s producers.

The South Carolina Ag Disruptors Webinar series is held monthly from 12-1 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month, with two more remaining in the calendar year. On Nov. 16, Professor of Agribusiness and Rural Development Dave Lamie will discuss a project focused on Southern heritage crops, and Richards will address evaluating business ventures. On Dec. 21, Steve Isaacs with University of Kentucky Extension will lead a webinar on employee retention and management.

Those interested can register for the webinar series here.

Article provided by the Clemson Cooperative Extension.

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