CattleCon 2020—it’s a pretty catchy name for the beef and cattle industry annual event held earlier this month in San Antonio, TX. Reports were that over 9,000 people attended, but it didn’t seem like that to me. This convention has become so big that it is hard to know where to be and when. If you’re a committee member you only have time for that. If you go and don’t have any responsibilities, it’s easy to get lost and dumped into the trade show. The trade show had over 350 exhibitors.

Things get overwhelming in this three-day time slot. Registration for the event is now over $1,075; half-price if you’re a student yet $575 is still a lot of money for a student. Then by the time you travel and get a hotel room you have a small fortune invested in attending this event. It costs $100 to just get a day pass for the trade show. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a great trade show, and you don’t want just anybody attending. I have heard a lot of comments regarding cost. So NCBA hear the message: You’re getting too expensive although I realize that this event is a money maker for you.

We heard a lot about technology at this event as it relates to ag production. Technology is our path to sustainability. Secretary of Ag Sonny Perdue addressed the crowd in the opening session and emphasized the use of technology and sustainability. He was a bit perplexed why other countries don’t embrace tech in food production, because when our population reaches 10 billion people, we will have a social responsibility to feed them.

He also pointed out that the U.S. government invested $830 billion in farm programs. Because of that investment consumers will have an abundant, inexpensive food supply. That $830 billion is a direct benefit to U.S. consumers, he said, noting Americans only spend 6 percent of their income on food while the French spend 13 percent. He also complained about the European Union’s nontariff trade barriers on beef and suggested that they comply with the rest of the world’s science-based endorsement on residue levels, such as CODEX or OIE, the World Animal Health Organisation.

Perdue said he’s proud of American agriculture and bullish on its prospects, but he is disappointed in our messaging. Consumers want to know more about how their food is produced and we must do a better job of telling them our story. We all know ranchers are the original environmentalists and conservationists and we are sustainable. In Perdue’s mind efficiency is sustainability, making a buck is sustainability, and a healthy community is sustainability.  

CattleFax gave their much-anticipated forecast, which for the most part was very optimistic. The overall weather forecast suggests we will have a dryer than normal summer and lower precipitation through the western two-thirds of the country. The Corn Belt and south East will have normal precipitation levels.

They say we will see record beef production of 27.7 billion pounds and record production of competing meats, as well. Their price forecast is all positive. They expect to see all-fresh beef to average $5.87, 5 cents higher than last year. The composite cutout will be $3 higher to average $222 cwt. Fed steers will average $120, also up $3. Feeder steers weighing 750 pounds will average $150, $6 higher than last year. Steer calves weighing 550 pounds will be $170/cwt, $6 higher than a year ago. Utility cows will average $60/cwt, and bred cows will be worth $1,500/head.

So, what will be the demand factors that will elevate cattle processing? According to CattleFax, the growth of the stock markets. Total beef expenditures have risen to $113 billion. Higher quality product will support demand growth and stronger job and income growth. And larger cattle supplies mean relatively steady packing capacity during the expansion. As cattle supplies stabilize, leverage can shift back to the cattle producer in 2020. They are also looking for global demand to kick this year with all the new trade deals.

I sure would like to know how your experience was at Cattlecon 2020. For me it was a little too much too fast with all the policy meetings, the checkoff meetings, a huge tradeshow and all the award receptions and just plain receptions. Then there are a lot of private business meetings we know little about. At the end of the day I don’t know where those 9,000 folks were. — PETE CROW

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