POCATELLO, Idaho-Farm equipment dealers at the 35th Annual Ag Expo said sales have held steady despite irrigation water shortages, softening commodity prices and the loss of tax incentives for machinery purchases.
Hosted in conjunction with the 46th Annual Idaho Potato Conference, the expo was scheduled for Jan. 21-23 at Idaho State University's Holt Arena, where vendors unveiled a host of new innovations they're certain will appeal to farmers.
Jerry Brown, a farmer and Certified Public Accountant from Caribou County, explained growers saw their Section 179 tax deduction reduced this year from up to $500,000 in equipment purchases in the first year to just $25,000, leaving farmers to take depreciation over seven years. The federal government has also ended a "bonus depreciation" program that allowed farmers in 2013 to write off up to half of their new equipment purchases.
Brown places the odds at 50-50 that Congress will take action to restore the tax incentives.
Tyson Coles, a sales representative with the John Deere dealership Bonneville County Implement in Idaho Falls, acknowledges his staff has discussed the loss of tax incentives such as the bonus depreciation. But he believes growers will continue buying equipment and depreciating it over the normal timeframe.
"Sales are maybe slowing down a hair, but there are still going to be people who have to buy, and equipment has to be kept up," Coles said.
Coles believes wireless data transfer technology, which should be released later this year, and meeting new emissions mandates are among the most significant trends in the industry.
Chris Flesher, territorial sales manager with Case IH in Spokane, Wash., believes local growers will be "cautious with the commodity (prices), the water situation and things like that." He also believes the loss of tax incentives will "certainly be a factor in decision making."
"We think (sales) are going to be flat to slightly down from a company standpoint in North America," said Flesher, who expects 2014 will still prove to be a good year.
Among Double L's most unique new innovations is a scoop-used for moving spuds in storage-that can be operated by remote control.
Double L sales manager Clay Allen has also noticed an uptick in sales of equipment to rid loads of debris, a trend he attributes to stricter penalties in contracts for failure to deliver clean loads.
Aaron Savage, manager of Lockwood Manufacturing in Rexburg, expects to lose an "end-of-the-year bump" from farmers who had capitalized on a last-minute tax write-off. Nonetheless, he said sales have been "consistent." On the expo floor, Lockwood showed off a new separation system utilizing air, in which potatoes float while denser "trash" falls away. The design also avoids bruising potatoes.