CLA/CCA Convention Tackles Ag Issues |

CLA/CCA Convention Tackles Ag Issues

Story & Photos by Robyn Scherer, M.AgR.

For those who work in livestock production, day-to-day worries encompass more than just feeding livestock. Immigration issues, disease issues, and land management are just some of the issues they worry about.

Livestock producers from across the state gathered in Loveland, Colo., from June 11-13, to discuss current issues in livestock production. The convention, which was held for the first time as a joint convention between the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and Colorado Livestock Association, focused on bringing together livestock producers from across the state to work together, and join together to learn to feed the world. 

On the first day of the convention, attendees could attend sessions in the morning on cattle marketing and feeders, beef improvement, endangered species and private property rights. In the afternoon, breakout sessions were held on ag policy and labor, animal health and welfare, game and fish, resource stewardship, membership and public relations, brand and theft, federal land and the BLM, state lands, tax and credit and water issues. 

The Colorado Cattlewomen’s Association also held their meetings on Monday, with their executive committee and board of directors meeting in the morning, and the general membership meeting in the afternoon.

At the general membership meeting, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Human Resources manager Nancy Rudzek talked with the women about the new workforce, and age diversity. 

She talked about the ways the different generations deal with authority, work styles, recruiting and retention. “Never before has the workplace consisted of such age diversity with four generations. Older workers are choosing to stay longer on the job. Their younger counterparts are rewriting the rules of employment and career. This creates both challenges and opportunities. The key is to understand each other,” she said. 

She continued, “Hiring the right people is very, very important. Research shows that 30 percent of the workforce will be baby boomers, 30 percent will be generations Xers, and 30 percent are Millennials. This is the first time we’ve seen that diversity.”

On the second day of the convention, the joint speaker session was held and Mary Lou Quinlan, Founder and CEO of Just Ask a Woman, spoke about how women shop. She talked with the members about the decisions women make, and how that affects consumer behavior, especially related to beef. “There are many different types of shoppers, but they all have one thing in common, and that is positive memories of beef,” she said. 

She also talked about how women see the beef industry, and the best way to market to them. “Just because shoppers are confused today doesn’t mean they won’t feel more informed tomorrow,” she said. 

She continued with talking about the way female consumers want to hear about beef. “Consumers want to hear from the family farmer. They want the ideal family cattle farm. Instead of calling it conventional beef, we need to call it traditional beef. It is raised with traditional care and best practices,” she said. 

She continued, “There are three emotional pillars of traditional beef. The first is trust. We need to rest the trust with the cattle farm families as human beings. The second is safety. It is domestically produced which allows for better safeguards and accountability. The third is freedom of choice. Her common sense has been assaulted by those who would spread propaganda in an effort to convert her and control her options and worse, make her feel guilty.” 

She finished her talk with points the producers can think about when marketing traditional beef, and how if you want to know what women want, you just have to ask.

The next speaker in the joint session was Julie Moore, Director of Nutrition and Education for the Colorado Beef Council. She spoke to the members about the ways the Colorado Beef Council helps to educate and inform consumers about beef. 

She introduced the BOLD diet, which stands for beef in an optimal lean diet. “Those who ate more lean red meat saw a significant decrease in their cholesterol level,” she said.

The third speaker for the morning session was James Robb, director for The Livestock Marketing Center, who talked about the market outlook for the livestock industry. “The demand side looks surprisingly good compared to consumer income. However, the cost of gain in the feedyard is much higher today,” Robb said. 

He then talked about global demand. “To meet basic needs plus growing incomes, animal based product consumption will need to double by 2050. That’s a growing potential market,” Robb stated. “Foreign consumers are paying more for U.S. beef than domestic consumers are willing to pay. This means our products will go overseas.”

Members were then treated to a luncheon, where Dr. Kevin Pond, animal science department head from Colorado State University was presented with a $19,000 check to be used for a scholarship fund. “Thank you for all the students it’s going to help from now until eternity,” Dr. Pond said.

Next the Colorado Leopold Conservation award was presented to the Wineinger-Davis Ranch of Lincoln and Crowley counties, where they received $10,000 and an award. “When I started 12 years ago, if you would have known me, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. One day we woke up and realized we were dealing with the mountain plover, and it changed my life. We decided to tackle the problem. That’s what you do on private land,” said Russell Davis.

He continued, “You take it, you confront it and you deal with it. We were doing something with a piece of landscape that was helping the wildlife. Karval has become a model for community-based conservation. We have the Plover Festival where people can come in and see what we do.”

He then talked about the future of the ranch. “What is the future, what’s our next chapter? I think about this great award and what a landscape should look like. I’ve realized the importance of leaving a landscape that can be used for the next generation and giving them the opportunities we were afforded,” Davis said.

He added, “I’d like to see a research facility in our community. I want to stay ahead of the curve and provide the research. I also want to continue to engage our youth.”

He finished with thanking the membership of CLA and CCA for this award. “It’s been a great day for our family. I’m not sure words can express our thanks for honoring the ranch. Thank you all, it’s been a good day,” Davis said. 

John Salazar, the Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture then spoke to the membership. “The state of agriculture is great. Agriculture is leading this state out of the recession, and we are so fortunate to have a governor who understands that. What’s leading this state is the demand for our food products,” he said.

He continued, “In America today, we have only two percent of us who live on ranches. The rest live in urban centers, and don’t know what it takes to produce a calf or kernel of corn. They think food comes from the grocery store. It’s the same in Washington D.C., and those people are making our farm policies.”

“The challenge we will have is educating our urban counterparts. Can you imagine living in a country where we had no farmers and ranchers? Where we had to import all of our food? You are more than a matter of national security. You are responsible for feeding the world. You are the most important part of the American economy right now,” Salazar said.

In the afternoon, a panel discussion was held featuring Jason Clay from the World Wildlife Fund, Mark Gustafson from JBS and Tom Goding from the Bank of Colorado.

Gustafson gave his thoughts on the markets perspective of feeding the world. “We look at who is producing meat and who is consuming meat. We have a perception problem internationally, and we have to work on developing that trust and show that we produce a safe product,” he said. 

He then went through the different markets around the world, and the influences that are happening in each market that drives beef demand. “There is a growing middle class in China, and that will be a huge market for us,” he said. 

The next panelist was Goding, who spoke about the roadblocks people face to feeding the world from a financial perspective. “The first issue is we have volatile input costs and volatile prices. This leads to volatile profitability. The second issue is the increased capital requirements. The third issue is unknown factors, such as the media,” he said. 

He continued, “The way to deal with this is to unload some of the risk, grow and retain capital, commensurate with increased liabilities and prepare for the unknown.”

The final panelist was Clay. He spoke about how farmers and ranchers will feed the growing population while maintaining the planet. “We need to use less to produce more from less. We must shift our thinking from trying to maximize any one variable, to optimizing the key ones,” he said. 

He added, “We have to figure out how to intensify production, sustainably. There is no silver bullet on how to produce as much food as we need. Right now, one of three calories produced is wasted. We need to fix that. Genetics are also important to increasing productivity. We need better practices,” he said. 

The third day of the convention featured a joint current issues breakfast. Jack Whittier, animal science professor at CSU, talked with the members about the Ranching Legacy Practicum, a program aimed at bringing young people back into the industry. 

“The goals are to maximize the hands on experience and minimize the lecture. One of the objectives is to connect more experienced with less experienced ranchers through mentorship,” Whittier said. 

The next speaker was J.D. Alexander, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, who spoke to the members about the beef check-off program. “We’ve got a great state and national relationship. Our ultimate goal around the world is to make the protein choice beef. We use check-off dollars to further that,” he said.

He continued, “If you aren’t at the table, you are on the menu. If your voice isn’t being heard, someone else will be speaking for you. I didn’t want someone else speaking for me. We are a large industry with not a lot of people. We must work together.”

CCA and CLA then held their general membership meetings, and then the different CLA councils held their meetings. The convention ended with the CLA Future Livestock Leaders Meeting.

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