Producer Profitability: Rancher Panel at Montana Stockgrowers Convention

December 11, 2023

 Unification of the livestock industry and a call for collaboration in the name of producer profitability themed the Montana Stockgrowers Association’s (MSGA) 139th Annual Convention and Trade Show held December 6-8, 2023, in Billings, Mont.

A panel on producer profitability was held on the Western Ag Network Stage, on Thursday of the event. Panelists included Rusty Ellis, of 21 Mile Cattle Company, Turk Stovall, MSGA 2nd Vice President and owner of Stovall Ranches and Yellowstone Cattle Feeders, and Jake Parnell, owner of Cattlemen’s Livestock Market and a member of the Livestock Marketing Association. The panel emphasized the need for all livestock organizations to join together to work towards improving producer profitability. The panel also addressed the limitations the next generation is facing and how the industry can work to make ranching a sustainable way of life for generations to come.

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“I realize that each of us [agricultural organizations] can have our differences…those are such small pieces that we seem to spend more time talking about than we do talking about all of the stuff we agree on,” noted Jake Parnell. “The most important thing is the idea of producer profitability and our nation’s food supply. We’re a world super power for two reasons, we’ve got a good military and we can feed people cheaply and nutritiously. If we allow other organizations and the government to push us out, we’ve got big problems in the near future.”

Members of the Beartooth Stock Association, a local affiliate of MSGA, brought forward multiple policies for the membership to discuss during the organization’s policy meetings around producer profitability. One specific policy addressed the federal estate tax and the current exemption levels set to sunset in 2025. The organization’s members support an extension of the current levels, if not a complete elimination of the federal estate tax.

“Congress is really good at doing nothing and the bottom line is that’s all they have to do to revert us back to our previous levels of exemption,” shared Rusty Ellis, owner of 21 Mile Cattle Company and a member of the Beartooth Stock Association. “If we allow for the estate tax to be reverted back to previous levels, it not only affects everyone in the room, but I don’t care what town you are from in Montana, it affects every business on main street.”

Additionally, Beartooth Stock Association membership brought a suite of policies to address the need to create business opportunities and a political environment which allows for young producers to transition or enter into the industry and be competitive and profitable. 

“It seems that we are in a political environment where we like to talk about what we don’t agree on with each other and we don’t spend any time talking about what we do agree on,” noted Turk Stovall, MSGA 2nd Vice President. “It’s got me thinking about how we get this next generation back and help them prevail. How can we create more unity in our industry so we can work more together? The last thing we need to do is confuse our politicians. If we are all coming to Capitol Hill with different agendas, what are politicians supposed to do for the beef industry? Let’s try to get a unified voice to get the next generation involved in our industry.”

All policies presented by the Beartooth Stock Association became MSGA policy with support from producers of all ages, operation sizes and geographic locations, indicating producer profitability is top of mind for many within the livestock industry. 

Following the convention, the MSGA Board of Directors met and voted to create the Montana Producer Profitability Task Force to provide the organization with a strategy and next steps on this initiative. The task force will be meeting in the coming weeks to begin their work.

To learn more about the Montana Stockgrowers Association visit

Source: Western Ag Network, MSGA