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TMCNet:  House Agriculture Committee Hearing

[April 02, 2012]

House Agriculture Committee Hearing

Apr 02, 2012 (Congressional Documents and Publications/ContentWorks via COMTEX) -- First of all I would like to thank the committee for this opportunity to speak at this hearing today.

My name is Dan Stewart and I've been a member of the Arkansas Cattlemen Association for over 20 years, and have served as a State Board Representative. I am the current president of the Stone County Cattlemen and served in that office several times, I'm a long time member of Farm Bureau, and served on the Board of Directors of the Arkansas Limousin Organization. I live up in the hills of Stone County Arkansas on a farm my family has worked and owned for over 100 years, and there has been cattle raised on this farm for as long as I can remember.
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One of my first memories is of my grandpa sitting me upon the back is his big old Hereford bull. (I tried that later as a teenager at a rodeo with a lot less success.) I try my best to help my grandson to have good memories of growing up on a farm and to know the responsibility, and work that comes with helping produce the food for our country and the world. I borrowed money and bought my first herd of cattle at the age of 16.

Compared to many others our operation is small and I wondered why I was invited here to speak today, but when I looked at the demographics I guess I'm pretty much what you'd call the average cattle producer. The average age of a farmer is 57 years old and the majority by far of cattle producers have 100 or less head of cattle in their herd. I feel that small farms and ranches are the heart and soul of our communities and have a value to our country far greater than just the quantity of animals that they produce.

Most producers I know pretty much have a no nonsense attitude when it comes to their cattle operation. If something works they keep it, and if it doesn't they try something else, if it aint broke don't fix it, so my suggestions to you are fairly simple.

First of all we need easy access to the programs that the government offers. It can be a real burden to drive long distances to apply for programs or sign papers. The road system in our part of the state is not always straight and smooth. It's more than just distance. Not everyone has a computer or affordable access to the internet.

One of the programs I take very personally is disaster assistance. A little over 4 years ago one of the longest track tornadoes on record, started at Atkins, Arkansas and left a continuous path of destruction nearly to the Missouri state line, well over 100 miles long. The track of this tornado went from one end of my farm to the other, destroying all my fences, barns, and damaging and nearly destroying our home. The very next morning the CED from our Farm Service Agency was out checking on the broken farms in his area. That's why we need local offices staffed with people that know the farmers and the land in their community. The counties that were affected by the storm were declared a disaster area and we received financial assistance to reimburse us for some of our expenses in rebuilding, without that help, I'm not sure what we would have done.

Another thing I feel is important to cattlemen is the conservation programs that help us preserve and protect our natural resources. This is even more important with the increasing concerns from the EPA and other environmental agencies.

As a cattle producer and a user of feed I am against any subsidies for ethanol. I think these subsidies have artificially raised corn prices to the point it has really affected the livestock industry. Ethanol should stand on its own.

I would like to see our marketing system kept as free as possible, but guarded against anyone taking undo advantage of that system.

To sum this all up basically what I'm saying is, when we are affected by natural disasters and forces beyond our control, be there with tools and the help we need to get back to the point we can continue to be productive. Give us the guidance and assistance we need to protect our soil and water, the most valuable resources we have. Keep rules and regulations to a minimum, but when there are mandates and rules that prevent the use of our land or the ability to produce an income from it we should be properly compensated.

Let us continue to do the job we should be doing, that is to produce the safest, most wholesome, and abundant food supply in the world.

Thank You again for this opportunity, Read this original document at: http://agriculture.house.gov/pdf/hearings/Stewart120330.pdf

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