Dr. Chuck Massengill, president of the Missouri Cattlemen's Association, spoke about the state organization's primary concerns. Massengill identified the Farm Bill as the main priority.
Keeping the Farm Bill free from language about from animal rights organizations and complications such as a title for livestock remain major concerns, Massengill said. Farm groups also want to preserve popular programs, such at Environmental Quality Incentives (EQIP).
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) decision to remove the requirement for vocational education may seriously impact vocational agriculture programs. Massengill said the legislature is considering taking the power to strip requirements away from DESE to preserve teaching farm-related skills.
When pressed why cattle rustling was not a priority for the Cattlemen's Association, Massengill said, "This is the only part of the state having cattle theft difficulty. It's a very localized problem. You can't make a statewide program for a regional problem."
"One or two cattlemen talking to an officer is not as effective as hearing it from an organization," said Lawrence County cattleman Jim McCann.
Massengill urged the local producers to send their delegates to the next Missouri Cattlemen's Association board meeting to press their position. He said state money targeting cattle rustling would be hard to secure.
Ron Plain, economist for the University of Missouri Extension, anticipated another difficult year for producers. While feed costs would remain at record highs for most of the year, Plain saw room for optimism. Record corn production, coupled with reduced demand to make ethanol, could drive corn prices down to $6 per bushel after the harvest.
Plain anticipated the beef supply would slowly decrease, resulting in the highest prices of the year at the end of 2013. With the calf crop falling, he anticipated reduced steer and heifer slaughter coupled with a steady increase in slaughter weights.
A weak national economy will leave only soft demand for meat. Plain also speculated the sequester of federal funds may impact getting animals out of feed lots by suspending or reducing meat inspectors.
"If they cut inspectors first, we could have a mess real fast," Plain warned.
Positive news on marketing came from Tim Straus, chief marketing officer for the Turover Straus Group in Springfield. Straus is working on new product development for the Beef Checkoff program.
Straus demonstrated two new microwave products. Ground beef packaged in plastic can be cooked in nine minutes, separating the grease from the meat so that the cooked meat can crumble out onto a plate at the other end. A 1.2-pound tri-tip roast will cook in 12 minutes in a bag by heating the fat, then separating the grease in the packaging.
Several three-in-one packages using serloin beef strips and seasoning packets come with recipes to make three different meals. The approach works for strips, cube steaks, thin slices for sandwiches and a London broil. Straus said the program concentrates on making fresh beef fast and easy.
Mike Kasten, director of the University of Missouri's Quality Beef Program, discussed improving cattle herds to achieve choice meat prices. Kasten described using artificial insemination to upgrade the genetic quality of a herd. The key, then, came from keeping production records, from birth to slaughter and meat grading to achieve higher results.
"The end value difference can be $400 to $500," Kasten said.
Seeing results can take a generation of cattle, running four to five years. Kasten stressed starting from a quality gene pool as a base for an improved herd, using on-the-shelf technology commonly available.
Good animal care must accompany the genetics for positive results, Kasten added.
Christopher Dumm, an attorney with the law practice of Dumm, Stevenson and Atwood, spoke on estate planning for cattle producers. With the threshold for estate planning at $5.25 million, Dumm suggested ways to establish trusts, putting the first $5.25 million in the husband's trust and the balance in a separate trust in the wife's name.
Dumm reviewed options for healthcare and insurance, plus what options Medicaid and Veterans Administration pensions offer. He looked at how trusts offer an option for nursing home protection and where an estate tax reduction could come into play.
A chili supper prepared by the Southwest Missouri Cattlemen's Association was served by the Monett Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the conference in conjunction with the extension service.
Jeff Meredith, executive director for the chamber, told the approximately 120 cattle producers attending that the $5 per person collected at the door will help fund a new chamber initiative. An agriculture business academy is planned to give young people experience on farms to learn the details of running a farm business.