State cattle associations get new leadership in the West
The new year has brought with it new leadership in several of the state cattle or livestock groups associated with the National Cattleman’s Beef Association.
Around the western half of the U.S., some state associations have elected new presidents. With new leadership comes new perspectives and new goals.
WLJ took some time to talk with a few of these new presidents. The names of the new presidents, their state association, hometown and a brief background begin each profile. Other questions asked of the new presidents included what they saw as the biggest issue facing their state’s producers, the state’s biggest strength in the beef world, and their personal goals for their presidency. Presidents are listed in alphabetical order according to their state.
Name: Richard Savage
Association: Idaho Cattle Association (ICA)
Hometown: Hamer, ID
Background: “I live a pretty humble life,” Savage said of his background. He grew up on the ranch his grandfather started. Today, the ranch runs a commercial Angus cow/calf operation. He added proudly that his grandchildren are starting to get involved. “We really enjoy the cattle business. It just seems to run in our blood.”
Biggest Issue: “It’s not fair to point at one issue and call it the biggest. There are a lot of things going on,” Savage said. Among the issues he cited as most pressing included conflict over the sage grouse listing, interest from Wyoming in buying up Idaho range land, trail permit issues with the Bureau of Land Management, and getting different governmental agencies to work together in a timely manner.
State’s Strength: “Our past year was really good. We passed the potato industry this year and are second only behind dairy. So long as our weather stays good, we’ll have another great year.” In addition to the excellent past year and projections for another good year to come, Savage spoke favorably about Idaho’s beef industry’s relationship with state and federal agencies. “We have a positive working relationship with the state government. We’re able to work with them and we’re hopeful that relationship continues.”
Primary Goals: Most of Savage’s goals related to the state’s strengths. “My goal is to continue our working relationship [with government agencies] to maintain our use of public lands. We need to make it work for not only for ourselves, but also the birds [sage grouse]. I want to continue those good relationships and improve communications.” Other interests included building association membership since ICA is relatively new, having started in the mid ’80s.
Name: Frank Harper
Association: Kansas Livestock Association (KLA)
Hometown: Sedgwick, KS
Background: Harper grew up with cattle but had a passion for grain farming. He went off to college where he got a degree in agronomy. Today he works his own commercial cow/calf operation with his wife as well as helping with her family’s ranch.
Biggest Issue: “In Kansas, we have a large feeding industry and excessive federal regulations can be burdensome. We’re for doing our part to protect our environment, but we have to take a cautious look at any regulations proposed. Our members’ ability to conduct business in a market-based system must also be protected.” Harper also mentioned that the need for an adequate workforce was a big issue for Kansas producers, even if a controversial one in the political arena. “We’re in favor of legal, native workers, but we need a practical guest worker program as well.”
State’s Strength: Harper cited Kansas’ weather and land resources as being among the biggest boons to producers in his state. “The western half of the state has ideal weather for commercial feeders, and a good workforce in the area. The eastern side of the state has a lot of pasture land with good grassland for yearlings. I see that as a big strength.” He also mentioned the trend of California dairies fleeing to other states having had a beneficial impact on KLA, which recently introduced a dairy committee to its ranks.
Primary Goals: When asked about his goals for his presidency, Harper mentioned a recent change to KLA’s leadership structure, primarily in decreasing the size of the board of directors and streamlining the system. “My goal is to make sure the transition to the new governance structure is smooth and effective in making us more responsive to today’s animal ag needs. KLA’s strength has always come from the active involvement of its members. As president, I want to encourage members to stay engaged in the association and in the industry as a whole.”
Name: Jim Ramm
Association: Nebraska Cattlemen (NC)
Hometown: Stuart, NE
Background: Ramm grew up as the third generation on his family’s beef ranch where his three brothers and father worked the Angus and Hereford herds. He completed his college studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with degrees in Animal Science and Agricultural Education. Today he works his Angus cow herd, specializing in selling bred heifers and backgrounding yearlings.
Biggest Issue: “The biggest issues we have are the animal activists and government overreach and overregulation, especially from the federal level,” he said. Ramm spoke at length regarding the issues with activism, particularly the Humane Society of the United States’ love of litigation against animal agriculture, and burdensome federal regulations. Ultimately, he concluded that it is a public education issue.
“We need to educate the consumer about what we do for our animals and for the environment.”
State’s Strength: “Nebraska is a unique state. Not only do we have three to four beef animals per person here, we have the greatest grazing area and the largest crop-growing area in the nation. This great beef and grain chain allows for cattle to be harvested in the area. We can be the epicenter of the beef industry.”
Primary Goals: Ramm spoke with considerable energy about educating youth and involving them in agriculture. He mentioned NC’s unique efforts to partner with Nebraska FFA chapters. Some efforts to this effect include NC officers visiting their local FFA chapters, and offering the opportunity for FFA members working beef projects to become members of NC. Other goals included advocacy and education on behalf of the Nebraska beef industry. “We need to be a strong advocate for the industry. And we need to educate political officers and the consumer by offering personal insight into producing beef.”
Name: J.J. Goicoechea
Association: Nevada Cattlemen’s Association
Hometown: Eureka, NV
Background: Goicoechea grew up as the fourth generation working his family’s ranch. He worked the commercial cow/calf operation with his father before he left for college. He returned to the family ranch after having gotten his DVM in large animals. Today, he works his family ranch and operates a medical clinic he opened in his hometown of Eureka.
Biggest Issue: “The top issue is the potential listing of the sage grouse. If it is listed, it will affect both public and private land. A major issue with it is the federal agencies in charge have said they will not look at the social and economic impacts of the sage grouse ruling. And the sage grouse issue is not just a ranching issue, but is also a concern for mining. If the sage grouse is listed, those two industries could go away and Nevada would be ruined.” A secondary issue Goicoechea mentioned was the severe overpopulation of wild horses on public land which negatively impact ranchers running their cattle on the same range.
State’s Strength: “Our biggest strength is the amount of forage on public land that can’t be used for anything other than livestock. And if it’s not eaten, it will burn. Since there’s so much room for cows to roam, we have a half-million cattle on range and there’s room to expand.” Goicoechea said the large swaths of grassland for grazing provide Nevada producers a niche market for all-grass-fed beef, which is very attractive in Asian markets. “Asia likes that all-natural, untreated, grass-fed beef. We can provide that here in Nevada.”
Primary Goals: Goicoechea mentioned a couple big issues he’d like to tackle in his presidency: water rights and the wild horse overpopulation. “Nevada has a unique water law and I want to see problems solved between federal agencies and the state. We need to get this figured out.” The overpopulation of the horses is something he finds particularly concerning. “Our ranchers have to deal with [the wild horses] every day. We need to get their fertility under control. As a vet, I hate to see them suffer and I want to make it better.”
Name: Curtis Martin
Association: Oregon Cattlemen’s Association
Hometown: North Powder, OR
Background: “I’m just a common producer who rose through the ranks and realized the political process was a necessary evil.” Martin is a current rancher who runs Hereford-Angus crosses.
Biggest Issue: Martin cited the east-west urbanrural divide in his state being a considerable obstacle to producers in Oregon. “The political power is in the populated, urban areas. A lot of people there have misconceptions about ag or just don’t understand the rural practices. It is hard to educate legislators and voters that the rancher and the farmer are the true stewards of the land. There have been so many voices speaking against ag, and we’ve been slow to get our message out there, so we’re behind the curve.”
State’s Strength: “Despite some issues with overreaching government, we’ve had good communication with state agencies,” Martin said of Oregon. The national and world market for beef was something he said was huge for Oregonian producers. “The record-high prices for our product, the rise in global demand for beef, projected long-term demand for our product abroad—it all makes for a lot of opportunity for growth.”
Primary Goals: “One of my main goals is to work for increased membership in the Oregon Cattleman’s Association and make sure the grassroots producers are represented. Their interests need to be kept in mind and their stewardship needs to be recognized.” In keeping with what he considered the state’s biggest issue—uniformed urban voters—Martin mentioned a lot of interest in consumer education as well.
Name: Wallace Schulthess
Association: Utah Cattlemen’s Association (UCA)
Hometown: Woodruff, UT
Background: Schulthess grew up on his family ranch where he still works with his two sons. “We run about half as many cows as we need to cover expenses,” he said with a chuckle.
Biggest Issue: “Right now we’re dealing with federal regulations dealing with the sage grouse. Most producers are aware of that and are working with preservation options on their private property, but Utah has a lot of public land, too. The cost of feed is a big issue, too. We have a lot of producers paying a high price for hay.” Schulthess commented also that some alfalfa processing plants which sell out of state have caused artificially high feed prices for producers.
State’s Strength: “The culture of ag is strong in Utah. We have a lot of multi-generational ranches here and [producers] are committed to doing whatever they can to keep that tradition alive. There are a lot of young cattleman who are excited about the industry and want their families involved. Some of them have to take second jobs and only ranch small or part time, but they are really dedicated to preserving the tradition.”
Primary Goals: “My main goal is to reach out through the state and involve more producers.” Schulthess praised the interconnectivity of Utah beef organizations and credited the UCA’s staff of capable, highly educated people with hands-on understanding of the industry for much of the organization’s success. “We’re concentrating on communication so we can support the grassroots or new producers. We’ve used a lot of internet, social media, and texting so we can react quickly to issues as they arise. So far, it’s been very successful. It’s my goal to continue these sorts of communication efforts.”
Not all new state association presidents in western states were able to be reached for interview. If you are a member of a state association with a new president who is not listed, investigate and see what their plans and goals are.
Almost every president mentioned producer involvement as either an issue or a goal even if it wasn’t a top priority or pressing concern. Getting involved with your local association could have a greater positive impact than you might imagine. — Kerry Halladay, WLJ Editor