The future of the industry

Feb 5, 2010
by WLJ

No matter what segment of the beef business you’re involved in, there was a “takeaway” message from the general session held during the 2010 Cattle Industry Annual Convention and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Trade Show. Panel members representing the seedstock, cow/ calf, feedlot, processing and retail sectors spoke to convention attendees and shared their views on surviving and succeeding.

“We have many challenges facing us today,” said Dan Dierschke, vice chair of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, in his introductory remarks. “We know we have more regulations, changes in consumer demand, and a multitude of hurdles confronting us. Today’s program was designed to give us insight as to how the leaders and innovators in every segment of the beef business are meeting those obstacles head-on.”

Tom Field, Ph.D., and executive director of producer education for NCBA, moderated a panel representing every segment of the business ranging from seedstock, cow/calf and feedlot, to packer and retailer. While the pressures facing each segment are different, all of the panelists were in agreement in their opening remarks that while being in the cattle and beef business has its challenges, all are thankful for the opportunity to participate.

“Exciting, fun, captivating, interesting—those are the words that I think of when I think about our industry,” said Homer Buell, a producer from Rose, NE. “Ranching is a hard business to be in, but I believe we should focus on the positives and not the negatives.”

As part of the program, each speaker offered their thoughts on strategies that were critical to success in the beef industry. “Sometimes the messages we receive from activists or even from other segments of our industry can seem daunting,” said Dave Delaney, vice president and general manager of Livestock and Ranching Operations for the King Ranch. “And, while that is our circle of concern, we should be focused on our circle of influence and devote our energy to the things we can change.”

Other themes that punctuated the panelists’ comments were the need for beef industry participants to be innovative and to continually find new opportunities through education and networking. “My father once said that tradition is production agriculture’s greatest handicap,” said Paul Bennett a seedstock producer who, with his family, operates Knoll Crest Farms.

“Beef demand and market access are critical factors to everyone’s success,” said Wesley Batista, president and CEO of beef processor JBS, based in Greeley, CO, with operations throughout the world. “We’re committed to working with all of you to improve these conditions.”

“Volatility has become the norm, and it’s important that we are predictive, rather than reactive,” said James Herring, CEO, Friona Industries. “We need to play good defense through risk management, no matter what phase of the industry you’re involved in.”

After brief presentations by each of the speakers, the program was opened up for a question and answer session among the approximately 2,000 convention attendees who took part in the morning session.

Steve Foglesong, a beef producer from central Illinois and president-elect of NCBA, closed out this dynamic program with equally inspiring remarks that reminded everyone in attendance that while there are some potential roadblocks to the industry’s optimism, it is a battle that can be overcome if everyone remembers that they are in it together. — WLJ