The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently teamed up with conservation professionals and agencies to offer agricultural landowners some economic tools during a ranch economics conference on Sept. 19, 2008, at the Fletcher-Warren Civic Center in Greenville, Texas.

“The goal of this conference was to address very timely issues and provide these landowners and ranchers with the economic tools to make ecologically sound decisions, while remaining economically feasible,” said Jeff Goodwin, NRCS rangeland management specialist in Corsicana.

The 102 registered attendees received information about ranch economics and profitability from presentations by conservation and economic specialists. Also, three hours of pesticide applicators license continuing education units were offered during the conference.

“These are pretty remarkable times for ranchers with all-time high fuel prices and fertilizer costs, for they do not have a lot of control over the cost of a barrel of oil or a ton of fertilizer,” Goodwin said. “However, ranchers do have control over the management practices that they apply, and that’s what we’re focusing on.”

NRCS personnel also gave speeches at the conference, including Lori Ziehr, NRCS state agronomist in Temple, talking about economical alternatives to inorganic fertilizers and Robert Purdom, NRCS program manager in Greenville, addressing federal assistance through Farm Bill programs.

Plus, featured speakers discussed timely ranch economics issues, including maintaining profitability in forage-based production systems, economics of forage fertilization and hay production, and adding value and marketing beef cattle.

“Landowners need to be creative in justifying the profitability on their land,” said Dr. Jason Johnson, Extension economist for Texas AgriLife Extension Service in Stephenville.

“Properly managing your acres yields a better value and revenue on your operation, for the cows and calves are healthier from better grazing with higher forage production,” Johnson said.

Other speakers included three members from The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation: Dan Childs, agricultural economist; Dr. James Rogers, pasture and range specialist; and Clay Wright, livestock specialist.

At the end the conference, a rancher’s panel addressed staying profitable in your ranch operation. The panel included Chip Merrill, operator of the XXX Ranch in Tarrant County and former ranch management program president at Texas Christian University; Kenneth Braddock, manager for Rosewood Ranches in Navarro, Henderson and Ellis counties; and Jim Russell, owner of Jim Russell Hay and Sprig Farm in Hopkins County.

Sponsors for the Blackland Prairie Ranch Economics Conference included NRCS, The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas GLCI, Blackland Prairie GLCI, Upper Sabine Soil and Water Conservation District, Bluebonnet Resource Conservation and Development, Hunt County Farm Bureau, Ag Workers Insurance, DOW AgroSciences, and Hunt County Farm Supply.