Programs in horticulture, horse, grain, forage, family and agricultural policy will also be presented.

"Our goal each year is to bring in the most knowledgeable speakers available who can offer farmers and ranchers the best ideas to enhance agricultural production in this region," said Rebecca Parker, regional Texas Cooperative Extension program director for agriculture and natural resources and B.I.G. coordinator.

Robert Gates, president of Texas A&M University, will be the keynote luncheon speaker on Jan. 20.

The conference will open Jan. 20 with concurrent sessions focusing on beef, horticulture, grain and the Texas Family Forum. Afternoon sessions will feature programs on forage, cotton and horse. The following is a schedule and session information for Jan. 20:

-- 9 a.m. - noon: Beef session topics include marketing opportunities, current market conditions and issues. Scheduled speakers include Ernie Davis, Extension livestock marketing economist; Ross Wilson, Texas Cattle Feeders Association; Ron Gill, Extension livestock specialist; and Curtis Thomson, Rural Community Crop Insurance.

-- 9 a.m.-noon: Water conservation, home landscapes and home pests will be discussed during the horticulture session. One CEU-IPM will be offered.

-- 9 a.m. - noon: The grain session will include risk management strategies, farm finance, using climatology and long range forecasting on a farm operation as well as other topics. Two CEUs-General will be offered.

-- 9 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.: The Texas Family Forum theme this year is "With Love From The Garden." Pre-registration is $30 ($35 at the door) and includes lunch. Pre-registration checks are payable to District 8 TEAFCS Association. Mail to Sharon Amelunke, 420 North 6th St. Waco, TX 76701.

The program will focus on herbs and their uses. Noted herb authorities, Madalene Hill and Gwen Barclay of Festival Hill at Round Top, will be the featured speakers. They will share information on propagating, cultivating, harvesting, culinary and other uses of herbs. Other topics to be covered during the session include health aspects of herbs, decorating with herbs and spa treatments from the garden.

The afternoon sessions will begin at 1:30 p.m. with concurrent sessions focusing on forage and cotton:

-- 1:30 p.m. - 4 p.m.: The forage session will feature Twain Butler, Extension agronomist, who will discuss legume varieties. Other presentations include: grazing management systems, led by R. L. Dalrymple of the Noble Foundation, soil and forage sampling, featuring Mark McFarland, Extension soil fertility specialist, and tips for searching the Web, led by David Winkler, Extension agent-agriculture for Bosque county. One CEU will be offered.

-- 1:30 p.m.- 4 p.m.: The cotton session will include presentations on management of cotton varieties with plant growth regulators, and an update on harvest aide materials led by Robert Lemon, Extension agronomist.

Marketing strategies for cotton loans, pools and module averaging will be led by Jackie Smith, Extension economist. Other topics include an update on the boll weevil eradication program in the northern and southern zones, and a grower's perspective on the feasibility of conservation tillage. One CEU-IPM and one CEU-general will be offered.

-- 4 p.m. - 9:15 p.m: The horse program will be held at the Heart O' Texas Show Pavilion. It will include topics on feeding and nutrition, cost of ownership, and matching horse rider and tack. Dr. Brett Scott, Extension horse specialist, will lead a program on "Companion Animals vs. Livestock"; Dr. Pete Gibbs, Extension horse specialist, will lead a program on "Cost of Ownership."

The following is session information for Jan. 21:

-- 9 a.m. - 3 p.m., Pesticide license and re-certification training.

Pre-registration is $30 ($50 at the door). Pre-registration checks are payable to "Program Development Fund." They may be mailed to Donald Kelm, 420 N. 6th Street, Waco, Texas 76701.

Topics include best management practices/wellhead protection led by Monty Dozier, Extension water resources specialist; integrated pest management principles, Jeff Tomberlin, Extension entomologist; and brush control management, led by Barron Rector, Extension range specialist. Pesticide law and regulations will also be presented by Vick Alexander, Texas Department of Agriculture. Five CEUS will be offered (one L&R, one IPM and three general).

-- 9 a.m. - 3 p.m., Texas Agricultural Forum: Registration is $30 and includes lunch.

The session will address state and federal agricultural policy issues.

Topics include state tax laws, a future look at Texas policy initiatives, Country of Origin Labeling. Other issues will be addressed.

Registration is $10 for the B.I.G. Conference and includes the keynote luncheon. The horse program is $5 and includes dinner on Tuesday night.

The Mid-Tex luncheon on Wednesday is $10.

For more information about the conference, call (254) 968-4144 or visit the Web at http://stephenville.tamu.edu/BIG.

Blair Fannin is a writer for Texas A&M University.

e-mail: b-fannin@tamu.edu