"How much rain did you get?"

That was the big question Tuesday night at a meeting of the Newton County Cattlemen's Association.

That question was asked several times as about 175 cattlemen and women enjoyed a steak dinner at Crowder College, courtesy of the Joplin Stockyards.

After the dinner, several addressed the ranchers. Jackie Moore, of the Joplin Stockyards, had some very encouraging words about the price of beef. He said this was good time to be a rancher, and he encouraged young people to take advantage of the opportunity to be a cattleman.

"If a young person works hard, and hustles, he can be very successful now. This is the best cattle market in recent history, and you don't want to miss the opportunity and let it pass you by," Moore said.

John Hobbs, of the McDonald County Extension office, spoke briefly about a new weed that is showing up in the area. Knapweed, he said, was brought into Southwest Missouri in hay and straw from the northern states. McDonald County has a major knapweed problem, and he is working with the Missouri Department of Transportation and with Dow Chemical on an experimental program to fight it.

He warned the cattlemen to be aware of it and brought a sample to the meeting for them to look at.

Mike Deering, executive vice-president of the Missouri Cattlemen's Association, spoke briefly. He noted that the statewide the membership had grown by 1,300 this year. He challenged the local group to tell people if they like to eat then they should support the Right to Farm amendment that will be on the ballot this November.

The main speaker for the night was Rep. Bill Reiboldt, who explained the Right to Farm bill and said it would protect small farmers and ranchers as much as it would the larger operations.

He noted that the division in the Missouri Legislature is not so much between Democrats and Republicans as it is between rural and urban. He said feelings about farming and raising livestock was improving because of the youth. Reiboldt said that programs such as Master Gardeners and other such programs are educating young people on rural issues.

Reiboldt, a major sponsor of the Right to Farm bill, said he would be the first to admit that the Right to Farm bill was not perfect, but it goes a long way in protecting farmers and ranchers, giving them the right to be crop and livestock producers.

"Those who oppose this bill want to set the clock back 50 years," Reiboldt said. "I have been a dairy farmer for 40 years and one of my dairy cows could outproduce five of my father's dairy cows. The opposition wants to kill the progress we have made in agriculture."

The Right to Farm bill will be Constitutional Amendment No. 1 on the ballot this fall, and Reiboldt urged everyone to support it.