By ROXANA HEGEMAN
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- Hundreds of cattle producers struggling in drought will converge in Wichita this week to hear Republican political strategist Karl Rove give his take on the recent presidential election and what it means for the nation and its agricultural sector.
Rove, who served as senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to former President George W. Bush, will be the featured speaker Wednesday before a sold out crowd at the opening of the Kansas Livestock Association's 100th convention.
About 600 people are expected to hear Rove speak at Wednesday evening's banquet, and about 800 cattlemen are expected to attend the three-day convention, KLA spokesman Todd Domer said.
"Our folks will be very interested in what the results of the recent election mean not only for agriculture, but for the U.S. economy and try to make sense of that as it applies to our industry," Domer said.
Among the political issues of concern to Kansas cattle producers and feedlots are dust regulations considered by the Environmental Protection Agency, water regulations and taxes, he said. Cattlemen also are interested in hearing whether Rove thinks a deal can be reached to avoid the "fiscal cliff," a package of sharp tax increases and spending cuts that will take effect next year unless Congress and the White House replace them.
This year's convention comes amid one of the worst droughts in the nation's history. With grazing land dried up, hay production down and hay prices high, many ranchers have sold off large portions of herds they can't afford to feed.
Randy Blach, executive vice president of CattleFax, which tracks the beef industry, is scheduled to speak Friday about the outlook for ranchers, feedlots and dairymen. The market analyst is also expected to offer suggestions on how producers can deal with the higher costs and volatile markets seen in the past few years.
"One of the more important reasons to hold the KLA convention is the rancher-to-rancher information exchange that takes place, and I know that the drought will drive a lot of conversations that take place outside of the educational spectrum that everybody sees at the KLA convention," Domer said.
Many of the discussions held in hallways and during meals will likely center around ways ranchers are working to keep their herds together or to provide water and feed.
"There are a lot of real, big challenges out there right now," Domer said. "And sometimes those are best solved through the peer network."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.