EVERY SUMMER, writers from many of the farm magazines you receive gather for a meeting to try and become better writers and reporters. This meeting is a popular place for agricultural company representatives to attend because the farm writers' audiences are the companies' customers. So instead of sitting in workshops about writing better stories and headlines, many of us sit around and talk with company people because, frankly, all journalists like to talk.

This year's meeting was just held in Milwaukee. As in the past, the event yielded many interesting nuggets of information. But not all the information fits into regular stories. So here's a few of the news nuggets gleaned from hallway conversations.

Depleted tire inventory

In 2004, farmers depleted the ag tire supplies of several major tire companies. A Michelin spokesman says the strong ag equipment market last year drew down inventories. Because tire manufacturing plants operate at near full capacity anyway, it has been tough to build inventory. Expect the low inventories to continue through this year.

On another subject, the Michelin representative says 50% of combines are equipped with bias tires. Growers forget that combines can cause compaction, too. So the company is pushing for growers to switch to radials.

Soybean price war?

It was suggested that a major seed company may start a soybean seed price war this fall to earn market share. While this prospect may make growers happy, the seed companies who must pay large technology fees are worried.

Steamed weeds

Propane may be the next wave of weed killers. A new implement called the Atarus Stinger uses propane power to produce a steam that kills weeds. The Stinger is being used in California vineyards right now and the Propane Education & Research Council expects it to be modified for row crops within a couple years.

Rabobank

Rabobank wants to be your banker. The Dutch-based banking business was started 100 years ago by farmers in Europe and now it boasts more than $600 billion in assets. Representatives of Rabobank report the company wants the U.S. agricultural business and plan to set up more Rabobank centers in the Midwest.

One unique loan that Rabobank AgriFinance offers is a real estate line of credit where borrowers pay only interest. Used as operating loans, the line of credit is starting to catch on in the U.S., according to Rabobank. The next time you're looking for financing, it may be worthwhile to check out Rabobank's portfolio of products.