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Fame Ag Broadcaster Tells Cattlemen, "You Can't Dream Big Enough!"

Macomb: 400 juicy ribeye steaks were grilled outside the Western Illinois University's Student Union Saturday evening by Tri-County Cattlemen's very active board members.

Over 350 cattlemen, spouses, and friends of the beef industry gathered inside Western's Ballroom for the Tri-County Cattlemen's Association's annual feast and special speaker.

Orion Samuelson, hall of fame Ag broadcaster on WGN, delighted the crowd with his stories of farming, salt and peppered with Norwegian jokes of Ollie and Olie.

Samuelson, #1 Agricultural Broadcaster in the country, has served as Agricultural Services Director of WGN Radio since 1960. His straight forwardness and knowledge has taken him around the world.

Samuelson said the "beef check-off program" is one of the best programs. People had been convinced that beef wasn't good for you, but now beef is in demand and prices are up.

Samuelson said Canadians stopped eating beef after the first Mad Cow case in May 2003 hit North America, and the stock fell. In December 2003 was "the cow that killed Christmas." Your association had watched the Canadian problem and when it hit here, it hardly made a bleep.

Consumer spending for beef continues to increase with predictions of 10% by 2010, "10 by 10 they call it."

In opening trade, Samuelson said, "Japan came up with another device not to cross the line."

Samuelson said, he had an idea. "Cut Sony imports in half until Japan opens doors for Japanese markets."

The most frustrating stories, he said, are the non-stories reported on mad cows.

He said, once we get Japanese markets open, we will need to keep them open.

"If we want to continue selling beef to the biggest buyer, McDonalds, we are going to have to agree to the National Animal I.D. program."

He explained how vegetable farmers are already doing that for Gerber baby food.

"They have a complete record on every acre of carrots" right up until it goes into the jar.

"The same thing is going to have to happen to cattle."

Samuelson finds it interesting that we should worry about confidentiality. With the Internet in today's world, there is no confidentiality.

Samuelson told about an auction barn with an I.D. program that tracks them since birth.

"They meet all the guidelines, and they get paid a $3-$5 premium.

"They knew when they were vaccinated, where they were born, the feed used. A lot of sale barns don't want to put in the readers.

"I was told a National I.D. Program could be in place by 2007. But if a processor, producer or importer puts in a wrong figure, they (Japan) could slam the door shut.

Samuelson's advice to the farmers was "Change!"

"You got to be able to change - be flexible. We resist. We got to get away from the status quo. What made you successful yesterday, probably won't make you successful tomorrow."

Samuelson said the good old days weren't that good.

"I was 14 years old before I didn't have to go upstairs without a kerosene lamp."

" I've been on the radio 53 years and the biggest change is globalization."

"Now, we are looking at genetics. Tobacco may he used to produce more medicine than any other."

Samuelson wishes the world would just let us do what we do, "produce food."

But hunters in the city are paying more for scrub ground to hunt and fish on than good farm ground sells for.

People are asking if they should sell farms for $40,000 an acre.

Samuelson said, "don't sell until you know what you've got."

"Is there a market for farming? By 2007 more corn will be made into ethanol than we export. Better us than foreigners. If it is about change, let us lead the change!"

Orion Samuelson, WGN Farm Broadcaster, speaks at the Tri-County Cattlemen Banquet in Macomb