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Josh Breitkreutz, a salesman for Equipment Depot, shines up a 1947 Ford 9N tractor called The Survivor to prepare for last year's annual Blackland Income Growth Conference in Waco.

Like the Old Farmers Almanac, BIG is a tradition among the farm-and-ranch crowd. The Blackland Income Growth Conference is holding its 57th annual conference Tuesday and Wednesday at the Waco Convention Center.

Almost 500 farmers and ranchers from 23 Central Texas counties are set to attend the event sponsored by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce. They will hear updates on battling cattle ticks, new cotton-raising technologies and the latest in horticulture, extension service spokesman Blair Fannin said.

“The BIG Conference features a number of commodity sessions, including beef, horticulture, cotton, grain, rural land management, forage and wildlife — all designed to help producers improve profitability and enhance stewardship practices,” Brent Batchelor, the Stephenville-based regional program leader for AgriLife Extension, said in a statement.

Bill Foshea, BIG conference chairman, said farmers and ranchers apply what they learn at the gathering to their own operations.

Dan Hale, AgriLife Extension meat specialist in College Station, will focus on connecting food and agriculture in his lunchtime keynote address Tuesday.

Hale, has taken part in national studies on beef tenderness, will provide information about diet, health, food safety, livestock growth and meat sciences to consumers and industry professionals, according to an event flyer.

A program called “From the Ground Up: Connecting Agriculture and Health” also will be held in conjunction with the conference on Tuesday. A program agenda and registration are available at agrilife.org/fromthegroundup.

BIG recertification also is scheduled during the conference. Registration is $60 in advance or $70 at the door and includes lunch.

To preregister, call the chamber at 757-5180.

Attending all commodity sessions costs $25, including lunch.

Private applicator training is offered Wednesday for $75, and lunch is included. To preregister, call 582-4022.

“This is not necessarily one of the biggest conventions we host, but I would classify it as middle-sized and we love to have these longtime sessions coming back year after year. We consider it a compliment,” said Carla Pendergraft, who markets the Waco Convention Center. “We are very happy to have a group with that much faith in Waco.”

She said hoteliers tell her BIG is not booking blocks of rooms to accommodate the conference, “but there may be hotel rooms associated with speakers.”

Fannin said the longhorned tick issue is hitting too close to Texas for comfort.

The tick has been discovered in nine states after showing up in New Jersey in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It is native to eastern China, Japan, the Russian Far East and Korea, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

The USDA has confirmed the presence of the ticks in Arkansas, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Maryland, with infestations discovered in sheep, goats, dogs, cats, horses, cattle, deer, opossums, raccoons and humans.

They stress animals, hampering growth and killing some.

“In contrast to most tick species, the female can produce up to 2,000 eggs at a time without mating — meaning hundreds of ticks can be found on a single animal, person or in the environment,” according to the CDC.

Also, farmers and ranchers have been blessed with rain in recent weeks, but wet fields are delaying early corn and cotton plantings, Fannin said.

“Central Texas has gone from an historic drought to too much of a good thing,” he said.

He said farmers and ranchers also are eager to hear the latest on tariffs, trade with China, world economic conditions and the new Farm Bill, and he plans to attend the conference.

The 23 counties that comprise BIG cover more than 12 million acres.

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