It's a tradition at the end of a year to recount the year's biggest stories and prognosticate on the big issues of the new year. This year, that was an easy exercise. In no particular order, they are:

  • The U.S. attempts, failures and limited success at restoring our export markets. South Korea has not only thumbed its nose at the U.S. but made a mockery of the entire system. We also gave into Japan by accepting its rejection of internationally recognized standards. These will continue to be big issues in 2007.

  • National ID. Though very little happened, premise ID sign-ups are on schedule, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association succeeded in pushing for a voluntary program, and private enterprise is putting the necessary components, albeit slowly, in place.

    The marketplace with age and source verification, and to a lesser degree genetic and process verification, has largely already passed up the whole national ID debate. Virtually all progressive cow-calf producers this fall sold their cattle in a system that would allow for 48-hour traceback.

  • The weather. Widespread drought short-circuited expansion once again. Seemingly nearly every region of the country had a major weather event in 2006.

  • Corn prices unquestionably had the biggest impact on producers financially, not only in the short term but it promises to reshape the very structure of our business. The ethanol subsidies and the corn farmer vs. cattle rancher debate will continue to be at center stage in 2007.

  • The marbling failure. The industry, especially the seedstock and feeding segments, have talked a lot about why -- despite a shift in breed composition to higher marbling breeds, a heightened level of selection pressure for marbling, and a host of other factors such as days on feed, heavier carcass weights, etc. -- marbling actually has been decreasing.
My wish for 2007 is that the new year be about a renewed focus on profitability, on growing demand, and returning to issues we can influence and that will have a long-term effect on our sustainability, both as individual enterprises and as an industry.
-- Troy Marshall