Five years ago, I wrote an article for NF Ag News and Views that reviewed a program given at that year's NCBA convention titled "The Three Main Factors that will Shape the New Millennium." Herman Cain, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association, presented the program.
He stated, "Cattlemen must pay attention to these factors if they wish to remain competitive and in business. Those three factors are technology, people and government." He told the large crowd that "technology requires an industry to innovate or die, while at the same time, an industry must never lose its focus on the people."
Also, he stated that "government will impact the new millennium and the beef industry must work to make needed changes in government."
While at the time, the emphasis of my review was directed toward the use of computers and the Internet, I must say that Mr. Cain had a unique vision of the future. Though he couldn't have foreseen the problems caused by BSE in the Canadian and Japanese markets, he did foresee the government intervention into those problems that continues today and into the future.
And while no concrete steps have taken place yet, the government soon will require the owner to provide source verification of their cattle. What that means to local producers is that you should stay up with the current information surrounding this topic. Better yet, take steps to make sure your cattle are identified and you have the records available to verify the origin of your cattle.
On the people side, demand for beef continues to be good, driven by consumer preferences for hundreds of new products.
Even with all that has happened in the past few years, computer technology, its use and the type of information we gather continues to be extremely important.
While the computer's use as a financial record-keeping tool will continue to be my emphasis, there are other opportunities for the use of the computer, particularly through the Internet.
Today, there are many sites on the Internet that will provide you with much-needed information. Below are a couple of examples of Internet sites and a brief description of each. When you have Internet access, give them a try and see if they will meet a need in your operation.
For local and regional livestock and grain prices, try the USDA AMS Market News Reports: http://www.ams.usda.gov/LSMNpubs/index.htm
For commodity futures (cattle-Chicago Mercantile Exchange): http://www.cme.com/
For tax information: http://www/irs.ustreas.gov/prod/forms_pubs/index.html
These are just a few of the many Web sites that can be useful to agricultural producers. Most land grant universities have Web sites, as well as most of the major corporations that support agriculture. You need to have Internet access. With the relatively low price of computers and Internet, you should make arrangements to get connected, if you aren't already,
Lastly, make sure you are keeping your Quicken or Quickbooks software current. We have had some difficulty updating information from some older versions. If your Quicken software is more than three years old, you will need to update now.