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Monett sponsors 3-day agricultural conference

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by Karen E. Culp

SBJ Staff

Agribusinessmen and women from throughout the area got to talk farming at an agricultural conference in Monett.

The Monett Chamber of Commerce, along with the University of Missouri Extension program, held the city's annual three-day agricultural conference again this year. Feb. 24, 25 and 26, farmers from around the region went to Monett to get more information on poultry, beef and dairy farming.

Feb. 24 was the Poultry Conference. A relatively new type of farming in the area, poultry farming has only been a part of the three days of conferences for three years. The Feb. 25 Beef Cattlemen's Conference is now in its 33rd year, however, said Pauline Gage of the Monett Chamber of Commerce. The Dairy Conference was held Feb. 26.

The Poultry Conference was the largest it has ever been, drawing about 200 people to the Monett National Guard Armory, Gage said.

This was also the first year the conferences had been held in the armory, which provided more space and a true trade-show type format for the event, which was previously held in a community center in Monett's city park. Between 30 and 32 exhibitors were at the beef conference this year, more than ever before, Gage said.

People interested in agribusiness could listen to expert speakers on the topics germane to their particular brand of farming. On Feb. 24, poultry day, poultry farmers were hearing a lot about litter control and environmental issues facing the poultry farmer.

Jo Manhart, executive director of the Missouri Poultry Federation, spoke to about 125 poultry farmers at the conference about what others are saying about litter and odor.

Manhart said she had at first wondered whether there was enough land in the southwest Missouri area to spread all of the litter generated on poultry farms, but an internal study had shown that the land for spreading was available. She said her concern was with the reaction of others to the litter-control issues, and the farmers becoming good environmental stewards.

"What I'm most concerned with is in getting good information out to folks about what actually happens on these farms and in getting farmers educated about what they can be doing to alleviate the problem," Manhart said.

Environmental regulations are new to the farming industry, Manhart said. Last session, Missouri legislators passed House Bill 1207, which was intended to address environmental issues for swine farmers, but included poultry, and that represented the first environmental regulations for poultry farmers.

In southwest Missouri Manhart approximated that there are 760 poultry farms, including turkey, boiler, egg and pullet farms.

The poultry industry in the area has built the business of at least one exhibitor at the fair. Wayne Holly, owner of Southwest Poultry Supply, has been in business 15 years and watched the industry in the area grow exponentially in the past seven or eight years, he said. His service area includes generally the area between I-40 and I-44, he said.

Beef day was the biggest Monett has ever had. Tim Dieckhoff, who is on the chamber's board of directors and heads up all the agriculture-related activities, said the cattlemen were interested in what beef cattle expert Doug Laue had to say about feedlot and carcass performance of cattle.

"Poultry and swine farming has seen a shift to a more standardized product in recent years, and there is now movement in the beef industry toward that. Beef growers have realized that if you don't have consistent quality, people are going to stop eating beef," Dieckhoff said.

Poultry farming has gained importance in the area because of its stability, Dieckhoff said.

"With poultry farming, you have a guaranteed income; you don't have the fluctuations in income that a lot of other types of farming do. That's more favorable for the banks and for the economy in general," Dieckhoff said.

According to information from the Missouri Department of Agriculture, Missouri ranks 10th in the nation in broiler chicken operations, accounting for 3.7 percent of the United States' total. The state ranks second in beef cow operations and eighth in milk cow operations.

Rose Foster, animal health inspector with the Department of Agriculture's division of animal health, said the department finds the conference helpful in disseminating information about preventing disease in livestock.

"It's a good opportunity for us to let people know about the resources we have that are available to them. We want these livestock operators to be working in a good, clean environment and to be educated on preventing and eradicating diseases," Foster said.

Her division is responsible for maintaining the state veterinarians' offices in each county.[[In-content Ad]]

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