B.I.G. Conference in Waco to help producers meet deadlines SOME TIME early in 2001 a large number of Texas blackland producers are likely to get a wake-up call when they go to buy restricted use pesticides and find their applicator licenses or certificates have expired.

Of some 66,000 pesticide users regulated by the Texas Department of Agriculture, more than 30,000 face upcoming deadlines for obtaining continuing education units (CEU's) to renew their licenses or certificates.

Every year, as the deadlines approach, there are procrastinators who scramble for more CEU's. This time, because of the large number of applicators, procrastinators may find training options either in short supply or more costly.

Applicators have the chance to earn CEU's at the upcoming Blacklands Income Growth (B.I.G.) 2001 Conference, set Jan. 16-17 in Waco. Because some of the sessions run concurrently, a producer will not be able to earn all CEU's offered, but depending on which sessions he attends, he could earn as many as four.

Most farmers are either a certificate or a license holder. Certificate holders face a Dec. 31 expiration date, but they may get their required certificates anytime without penalty. They may not, of course, buy or apply restricted use chemicals until they renew.

License holders face a Feb. 28 expiration date. They may also renew after the expiration date, but must pay a penalty, which increases the longer they wait past Feb. 28 to get the required CEU's.

This year's conference program offers a variety of educational activities for blackland producers.

Charles Allen, Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation program director, will provide an overview of eradication efforts currently under way in Texas. Allen is one of six featured speakers slated at the cotton seminar, which offers 1.5 Continuing Education Units for participants.

Presentations on photo-period sensitive (PPS) forage sorghum and brown mid-rib (BMR) forage sorghum will be featured at the forage session. Also on the forage session are updates on rotational grazing and managing forage pests such as fire ants, grasshoppers and armyworms.

In the B.I.G. grain session, ag economists will make the point that it may be time for producers to rethink investing in on-farm storage.

Changes brought about by the 1995 federal farm bill may have changed the economics and yielded a marketing advantage to on-farm storage. Other grain session presentations will include information on the potential of soft red winter wheat in central Texas, an update on corn rootworms, and systemic treatment for early season insect pests in grain sorghum and corn.

Most of the B.I.G beef session will be directed to marketing. The session will start with a discussion on how producers can win a premium price by producing cattle with traits consistent for specific end markets, such as the upscale restaurant trade, the majority of grocery stores, or specialized niche markets.

Other presentations will include a talk by Ken Jordan, Jordan Cattle Auction Companies, San Saba, on "Marketing Opportunities for Today's Cattlemen"; a presentation by a South Central Texas rancher on breeding, developing and marketing replacement heifers; and a review by an Iowa producer on how quality sires will improve marketing predictability.

The B.I.G. horse session will focus on "horse driving," which is becoming a very popular activity as wagons, buckboards and other types of rigs can be purchased or refurbished as one might do to an old car. All aspects of driving will be covered, from trail driving to team driving, from hitches and driving training, from miniature horse driving to draft horse driving.

As in previous years, the B.I.G. Conference will be held in conjunction with the two-day Mid-Tex Farm and Ranch Show, featuring 45,000 square feet of exhibits.

Howard D. Graves, chancellor of the Texas A&M University System, will present the keynote address at the Jan. 16 B.I.G. luncheon.

The Blackland Cotton and Grain Association will have its annual meeting at 4:30 p.m., following the cotton commodity session.

Registration and other conference information is available at Texas Agricultural Extension Service county offices, or by calling 254-968-4144.

Conference information is also available on the Internet at: http://stephenville.tamu.edu/BIG

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