NDSA hosts young cattlemen?s conference

Feb 13, 2009
by WLJ
NDSA hosts young cattlemen’s conference

Recognized for their leadership potential, seven young cattlemen and women were selected by the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association (NDSA) Board of Directors to attend a Young Cattlemen’s Legislative Conference (YCLC) in Bismarck Feb. 4-5. This year’s participants included Joel and Jamie Opp of Hebron, Keith and Jill Helmuth of Watford City, Randy and Stacey Schmitt of Rugby, and Josh Fisher of Tappen.

“This is the 12th YCLC the NDSA has hosted,” explained NDSA Executive Vice President Julie Schaff Ellingson. “It has been interesting to witness how previous YCLC participants have grown to lead the cattle industry not only within North Dakota, but throughout the nation as well. I’m certain that this year’s group will also emerge as industry leaders, just as their predecessors have.” Held in conjunction with the state’s legislative session, YCLC provides young cattlemen and women an opportunity to participate in the state’s legislative process. During the conference, participants discussed cattle industry issues with Gov. John Hoeven, North Dakota Commissioner of Agriculture Roger Johnson, State Veterinarian Dr. Susan Keller, North Dakota Department of Agriculture Livestock Services Program Manager Wayne Carlson, and North Dakota Legislative Council staff L. Anita Thomas. Participants also met with the chairmen of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, Rep. Dennis Johnson of Devils Lake, and Sen. Tim Flakoll of Fargo.

Prior to their agency visits, YCLC participants spent an afternoon with NDSA President Jack Reich of Zap, who explained the grassroots nature of NDSA and how policy the membership passes at their annual convention in September serves as a guide for the NDSA Board of Directors and staff. Also during the conference, Ellingson detailed NDSA’s role in the legislative process as well as some of the intricacies involved in lobbying and monitoring bills as they relate to the cattle industry.

“The NDSA directors selected a very articulate group of young cattlemen and women to attend this year’s conference. Each participant was knowledgeable and passionate about the state’s cattle industry and interested in the general direction of animal agriculture in the United States,” said Reich. “They posed excellent questions during the agency visits and engaged in lively debate throughout the conference.”

The Schmitts, who represented NDSA’s District 1 at the conference, operate a 3,500-acre, 300-head Simmental-Red-Angus cattle ranch in McHenry County where Randy was born and raised. Randy and Stacey Schmitt have four children: Mattie (13), Lane (10), Grace (6) and Ty (2). Fisher represented NDSA’s District 3 at the conference. He operates a registered Gelbvieh cow/calf operation near Tappen. His parents are Neil and Deborah Fisher, also of Tappen. Representing NDSA’s District 4, the Opps are partners in Opp Brother’s Angus, a registered Angus ranch started in 1951 by Joel’s grandfather Simon.

Today, the family-run operation includes Joel and Jamie and their three children: Natalie (9), Jamison (4) and Wyatt (2), as well as Joel’s parents David and Brenda and his aunt and uncle Duane and Rita Opp, all of Hebron. Opps host an annual production sale in Dickinson, offering yearling bulls and heifers.

The Helmuths, who represented NDSA’s District 5 at the conference, operate a commercial cow/calf operation near Watford City with their sons Kell (6) and Koen (3). Cattle have long been a part of the couple’s lives.

Keith, the second of five children, grew up in Rolette County on a cattle and sheep ranch still operated by his parents. Jill was raised on her family’s ranch in north-central Montana.

The couple began raising cattle of their own in 1998 while both worked in their professional careers. Keith ended his employment and added more cows when their oldest son was born with a heart condition requiring full-time, at-home care. Despite the challenges, ranching has allowed the Helmuth family the flexibility and balance to meet the needs of their family. — WLJ