Area producers plan to start the 2001 Valley Ag Marketing Club to help producers sharpen their marketing skills, according to Jerry Kidd, McCulloch County Extension Agent. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at the McCulloch County Extension Office on Tuesday, Feb. 20. Anyone interested in participating in the marketing club should contact the county extension office at 597-1295. “Two years ago, the group started the marketing club after the passage of the 1996 Farm Bill ushered in a new era for farmers. This bill set the stage for a new environment for economic decision-making by the producer. This new federal program lets producers plan for the market, but its new planting flexibility is likely to bring an increased level of volatility,” explained Kidd. “As ag producers in the U.S. and abroad react to volatile prices, we could see large swings in acres planted to different crops and livestock markets. The marketing and risk management skills of U.S. producers must improve if they are to successfully compete in the changing worldwide agricultural industry of the next century,” he continued. Helping to improve the risk management skills of agricultural producers is a high priority of the Extension Service, requiring intensive educational programming. The formation of marketing clubs is one way of improving the marketing skills of producers. The marketing club participants will meet once or twice a month with the common goal of increasing their knowledge of marketing and other risk management concepts. The members learn from each other and from the presentation of various educational programs. The members will watch the markets and learn to evaluate various alternatives at any point in time. The meetings will include outside speakers, regular interaction among the members and possibly some group trading of options. The meeting on Feb. 20 at the Extension office will be for interested producers to enroll in the club. The enrollment fee for voting members is $100. However, anyone interested in learning more about how to deal with the risks of producing and marketing agricultural products is welcome to attend the meetings and can join as a “non voting” member at no charge. Additional information may be obtained from the county office of the Extension Service.