by Stephen Wagner

Who better to look back than Chet Hughes, former Lancaster County Livestock Agent, a position that evolved into Animal Science Educator? Hughes was the driving force behind Lancaster’s Farm & Home Center for years before being called back to the mothership, Penn State’s University Park campus. Now retired, Hughes came to the 2019 edition of Cattle Feeders Day armed with black and white photos of cattle feeding yesteryear.

“Over the years,” he said, “the audience has changed from primarily local cattle feeders to include producers, students and professionals representing all segments of the beef industry from Virginia, West Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Ohio, North Carolina and beyond.” He also remembers that this event “has been blessed with consistently good attendance.” From the period of 1989 to 2018, average attendance was 190. The high for that period was 230 in 2012; the low 140 in 2007.

Other remembrances include “our first female keynote speaker, none other than animal handling expert Temple Grandin, Colorado State University, who appeared here in 1991, well before she became the distinguished author of several books and the subject of a movie about her life,” Hughes said. “Think of this. She received her PhD in 1989, and we had her on this stage two years later at the onset of her brilliant career.

“I stopped dreaming up themes in 1999, focusing instead on what to title Lou Moore’s economic outlook presentation,” he continued. Moore would never give Hughes a title, leaving it to Hughes to come up with something catchy and/or interesting. In 1999, Hughes said, “I labeled his presentation ‘Cattle Economics – Preparing for Y2K.’ Lou would then show up with messes of charts and graphs, newspaper clippings that buttressed his arguments, all of which endeared him to the crowd. Moore, by the way, holds the record for CFD presentations with over 30 appearances.

“Quality has been a key word in the beef business,” Hughes went on, “and when the century changed, at this event, we announced the Blueprint for Success, a program outlining 10 benchmark points aimed at producing safe, high quality and wholesome beef. In 2001 we launched Pennsylvania’s official Beef Quality Assurance [BQA] program.”

In 2013, leadership of Lancaster Cattle Feeders Day was transitioned to Chester County Extension Educator Cheryl Fairbairn and today is considered Pennsylvania’s premier statewide beef educational event. Colin Woodall is another permanent fixture, more or less, at the CF days. Part of the reason, besides his ability to amuse, is the ever/never changing Washington, D.C. from which he draws his material. Woodall is senior vice president of government affairs for the National Cattleman’s Beef Association (NCBA).

“Elections have consequences!” he began. “We are seeing those right now. All you have to do is go back to the beginning of the year for the first action we saw from [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi,” taking away the House as a venue for the president’s State of the Union address. President Trump responded by taking away Speaker Pelosi’s use of government aircraft for a Congressional junket. “I do believe it is that tit-for-tat we see that will drive the next two years, particularly as we go toward the 2020 election.”

“Based on history,” noted Woodall, “we in agriculture fare better with a Republican House than we do with a Democrat House. That is based on votes.” Woodall sees the conversation shifting to those on the Democrat agenda – greenhouse gases, climate change, obesity, dietary guidelines and all manner of things that Democrats think Republicans do to consumers, things that should not be under the purview of legislation in the first place.

One job that the U.S. Senate has, according to Woodall, is “to stop all the bad legislation coming out of the house. And that’s exactly what they’ll do. So even though the House will be very successful in passing this legislation, I doubt if the Senate will allow any of it to unfold.” That spells two years of pure gridlock. The second thing the Senate does is to “confirm as many judicial nominees as they possibly can in the next two years.”