Inflation, supply chain issues, input costs and commodity markets drove the focus of the Montana Farm Bureau Summer Conference June 13-15 at Fairmont Hot Springs. The event provided a time for the 180 farmers and ranchers to surface policy ideas in their advisory committee meetings while hearing from experts in the field.
Two speakers, Duane Lenz, senior analyst with Cattlefax, and Shelby Myers, an economist with American Farm Bureau Federation, addressed the issues of concern.
Lenz noted that cattle producers should see a positive price increase over the next four-to-five years despite supply chain issues.
“The drought has driven the market. With so many ranchers selling cows, slaughter is still up but will drop as cattle on feed will continue to drop and stay that way over the next few years,” Lenz said. “Additionally, external supplies have lowered by well over three percent, and our exports are climbing. I believe we will see northern cattle leading the bidding war as people want Prime and Choice grades.”
Myers explained the reasons behind the soaring inputs, which will be cutting into higher prices seen by the cattle producers. “The highest demand for all fuels is mid-March to mid-September, but now gasoline and diesel inventories are down, and even though we have a lot of crude oil stocks, we are digging into those, so the prices continue to rise. Meanwhile, as far as grain goes, rail cars aren’t showing up as often, and fewer drivers are doing long hauls, so when they do, that adds to the expense. There is a lot of market volatility. Producers will make more money but whether they can cover the rocketing expenses remains to be seen.”
MFBF has 13 advisory committees ranging from Promotion & Education, Water, Sheep & Goat and Public and Private Lands.
Gina Stevens, chair of the Taxation, Transportation, and Labor Committee praised their speaker Brendan Beatty, director, Montana Department of Revenue. “He’s a tax attorney and a rancher from Winnett. Governor Gianforte appointed him to that position to have someone who understands the challenges of the tax front of those working in agriculture. He encouraged everyone to contact the department if they have any problems or see any glitches. Mr. Beatty also said he hopes to see an additional increase in the exemption for the Montana Business Equipment Tax.”
Sidney rancher Canyon Rehbein serves on the Resource Management, Environment and Technology Committee. The young rancher found the discussion regarding a group called MIHAT (the Montana Innovation Hub for Agriculture Technology) that wants to serve as the “zipper” between research and entrepreneurship and a path to commercialization. “They are just in the founding stage and are reaching out for support. We voted to be supportive as long as the research centers around agriculture.”
In addition to committee meetings, workshops included the Montana Foundation for Ag in the Classroom, Suicide Prevention/QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) Training, and the Montana Ag Safety Program.
The MFB Foundation Fundraiser, “Welcome to Butte America” featured a patriotic theme with an exciting live auction of Farm Bureau district baskets, sales of copper mugs with a Farm Bureau logo and Butte-themed food. Between sponsors, auctions and a Calcutta for the Foundation Golf Scramble, the members raised $40,000 for the Foundation.
Wednesday tours included Montana Craft Malt and Butte Brewing company, followed by a visit to the Montana Prison Ranch in Deer Lodge.
This was the first summer conference for Dawn Aye, who ranches in Broadus. “I gained a lot of good information in the Equine Committee with the speaker, Joani Kissock from Kissock Horse Center, who explained how different bits work on horses and which ones are easiest on your horse. The tour of the Montana Craft Malt was fascinating as I had no idea about the process grain went through before they were delivered to the brewery. I enjoyed the summer conference; as you get into it, you learn you have a lot to learn.”