Jeff Windett, executive vice-president of the Missouri Cattlemen's Association, was the featured speaker following the dinner.
He spoke about the impact of agriculture's $16 billion industry to the state's economy. According to Windett, cattle farms are the largest section of the state's agriculture. In fact, Missouri has more seedstock producers and purebred breeders than any other state in the country. With approximately 1.9 million cows, Missouri is third to only Oklahoma and Texas in the total number of cows and second in the number of farms.
Windett pointed out that the economic impact of cattle farmers has a large "ripple effect" to the their communities.
"I know producers. When you guys make money you spend it," said Windett. "You tend to spend in your communities. You turn around, you buy feed, you buy clothes, you go to the grocery store. Virtually every business in your community you support through agriculture."
Windett also spoke about the different issues he has been dealing with on behalf of Missouri's cattlemen.
They include the animal rights movement, the "death" or inheritance tax, the ban on antibiotics. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and dust regulations, greenhouse gas regulations, climate change and trade.
He also spoke about the recent passing of Proposition B, called the "Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act," which passed on Nov. 2 by less than 2 percent after a mostly grass roots effort to oppose the proposition by the Cattlemen and 14 other agriculture organizations.
"I've never seen agriculture come together like it did on this issue. We met every two weeks for over a year talking about the animal rights activities that were going on," he said, pointing out that Missouri Corn Growers and the Missouri Soybean Association spent almost $200,000 for "animal agriculture." "I think it was a real credit to those two organizations. They stepped up to the plate."
During his talk, Windett also outlined the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which put in over half of the money spent for promoting Proposition B.
"A lot of people think they are about saving dogs and cats, they are nothing of the sort," he said, adding that according to their tax records they spend over $20 million in campaigns, legislation and litigation. In 2009 the organization put $38 million back into their own salaries, pensions and other benefits, according to Windett.
"When you look down at the very bottom line they only gave $450,000 for hands on managing, helping and rescuing of dogs and cats - less than 1/2 a percent," said Windett.
He also said HSUS is "coming after livestock."
"If you think this ballot initiative is not about animal agriculture think again," he said. "On election night, there was already something that appeared on Wayne Pacelle's blog that said 'We know where to spend our money next time when we come back.'"
Windett said that everyday when he is in Jefferson City at the capital, "there are eight full-time lobbyists in the name of animal rights."
"And I've heard they hired more lobbyists for this upcoming session," he said.
Windett urged farmers and cattlemen to start telling people about the good care they give their animals.
"Nobody ever talks about having to go out and pull a calf at 2 o'clock in the morning. It is just something you've got to do," he said. "I think it is about time we step out of that box and we start telling people how good we take care of our animals. You take better care of your animals than HSUS does and you know better how to take care of them."
He encouraged those at the event to use social media such as Facebook, Twitter and email to let urban friends and family know about agriculture.
"It's time to contact them, send them emails and tell them what you are doing," he said. "We've got to communicate about our business. We've got to come out of our shell."
He also urged farmers to become speakers at local businesses and organizations, explaining the Cattlemen's MBA or Master's of Beef Advocacy program.
Among the other ideas were to write articles or letters to the editor in local newspapers, become involved in the Beef Quality Assurance program and to call elected officials.
Also speaking at the dinner were Santa Fe Superintendent Gini Barnett and FFA president Sam Peters, who welcomed the participants to the school.
A slide show was also presented highlighting the 2011 Young Farmers National convention which will be held in Kansas City next December.
On Thursday, Jan. 13, the Santa Fe Agri-Leaders will kick off their regular winter meetings at 6:30 p.m. in the Ag room of the high school. The guest speaker will be Brian Wheeler of the Farm Service Agency, who will talk about beginning farmer loans. Local FFA chapters will be invited to join the meeting as he discusses the qualifications, process, and other in depth details on obtaining a beginning farmer loan.
The Santa Fe Agri-Leaders are also planning an all-day Global Ag Symposium for Jan. 25 at Concordia Community Center. Details on this and the regularly scheduled winter meetings can be found on our Agriculture webpage at www.marshallnews.com/agriculture.
Contact Marcia Gorrell at firstname.lastname@example.org