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Drought, farm bill and barbecue highlight farm meetings

I’ve eaten enough barbecued brisket over the past two or three months to have made a pretty good dent in the already shrinking cattle herd.

 I’ve gobbled up some decent potato salad, baked beans, sliced white bread, and peach cobbler, and washed it all down with lots of sweet tea.

I’ve withstood the temptation of donuts at registrations and mid-morning breaks — mostly — and have indulged in too many soft drinks and too much bad coffee. I’m surprised I haven’t worn out the seat of my britches by sitting and fidgeting during sessions on economics, crop insurance and other issues that pertain to arithmetic.

I’ve spent a passel of nights in hotels trying to adjust thermostats to somewhere between cold enough to hang meat and hot enough to smoke it. I have yet to find a pillow that is not either too thin to make a difference or thick enough to create a crick in my neck. And most hotel mattresses fail the old person back test.

Yep, it’s meeting time in ag country. It begins in late November and runs well into early March, with short breaks for Thanksgiving and Christmas, then accelerates rapidly early in the year. The Beltwide Cotton Conferences are followed by a slew of regional meetings across the Southwest, including a new one — The Red River Crops Conference — held this year in Altus, Okla., and will alternate between Oklahoma and Texas. The inaugural event was impressive.

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That conference is followed by BIG, the Blackland Income Growth Conference, a February tradition that offers excellent outlooks and updates on a variety of crops and issues.

Persistent drought takes a toll.

More will follow, including the Commodity Classic, held this year in San Antonio. No-Till Oklahoma, in Norman, has become another favored event, and is one of the best opportunities around to learn about the value of reduced-tillage systems and good rotation programs for many crops.

The last few meetings I’ve attended included a sometimes hopeful, sometimes despairing and finally a darn near jubilant report on farm bill progress. I’m wondering what meetings for the next few months will be like with no drama about the farm bill. I don’t think I’ve attended one in the past four years — maybe longer — that did not mention the need to get working on, get back to working on, or get to some sort of agreement on a farm bill.

The term debate was hardly appropriate. War, at times, seemed to be more descriptive. But in the end, a bi-partisan, workable farm law was enacted and will offer some assurance for a few years.

Of course I expect near-term meetings will turn to discussing how to implement the law, what it will mean to specific farm commodities and when to sign up for various aspects of the new program.

Also of interest during most of the recent seminars, conferences and meetings have been reports on the increasing threat of herbicide resistant weeds, new insect pests, the ever-present problem of production cost increases and feral hogs. Sustainability remains a key topic.

And the big issue for the next few months is likely to be drought — unless it starts in to raining pretty hard in the next week or two. And along with updates on dry weather will come discussions of water rights. Who gets first claim? Is well metering coming? How can we stretch declining water supplies further?

I wish I had the answers. I don’t. But I’ll try to get to as many educational sessions as I can, visit some farmers, talk with a few experts and see what I can find out.

I guess I’ll sample some more barbecue, beans and potato salad; curse at thermostats; and try to find a comfortable position in not-made-for-seniors beds. And I’ll be happy to report back. Or maybe I’ll see on the road.


Read more about Southwest agriculture:

Cotton stalk inspires first graders

Climate change causing historic drought

Corn and drought not supporting wheat prices

TAGS: Legislative
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