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Agricultural News

NCBA CEO Sees Bright Future Ahead for Beef Industry

Fri, 07 Feb 2014 12:25:20 CST

NCBA CEO Sees Bright Future Ahead for Beef Industry
If there is one word to describe the cattle industry right now, National Cattlemen's Beef Association CEO Forrest Roberts says it would have to be "optimism." In recapping this week's Cattle Industry Convention in Nashville, Tenn., Roberts told Radio Oklahoma Network Farm Director Ron Hays the mood was infectious. (Click on the LISTEN BAR at the bottom of this story to hear the full interview.)

"The really neat thing is we've had great attendance, great engagement and a big turnout of people with smiles on their faces."

Roberts attributed those smiles to the prospect of continuing high beef prices in the future and the lessening of drought conditions across much of the beef-producing areas of the United States.

Going forward, Roberts said, he sees the beef industry at a crossroads with many opportunities set before it.

"When we look at this crossroads, to me, the picture is very clear. The first corner of this crossroads is the view of technologies-how they're used in the beef industry today in producing the great eating experience that we do for consumers around the world. How do we understand what's being used but, more importantly, why they are being used? Because, that's the backbone of our infrastructure and the efficiencies that this industry has.

"Secondly, Ron, is looking at the agendas-agendas of activists. And we have a lot of intelligence about what those agendas are and our approach is, how do we take the opportunity that intelligence has afforded us and get in front of some of those agendas and ultimately enhance confidence in what is happening in our industry as opposed to the skeptic theory that may be out there today.

"The third is, not only what happens in D.C., but state governments as well-government policy, public policy that inhibits a producer's ability to have freedom to operate. Those types of things, whether they be related to the EPA, as an example, or even marketing programs. How do we take a very holistic approach to whatever our strategy might be?

"And, then, last but not least is this entire Vision 2020 is thinking about the consumer. What is changing in terms of their preferences? Even within the Millennial Generation of today's consumer, what's driving their preferences? Yes, price is important, but industry image or how the beef-eating experience was produced are now coming up higher on the radar which we think is a good thing because we've got a great story to be able to use to spark a dialog with these consumers.

"If we do all of that right, we will follow the headline of what Vision 2020 is about and that is building trust to enable growth."

Roberts said there had been a number of activists inside the beef industry who had taken issue with the use of beef checkoff funds by the Cattlemen's Beef Board and its major contractor the NCBA. He said the OIG's recent report and an inside look at just how effectively those checkoff funds have been spent has done a great deal to change some people's perspectives.

One of the lingering questions about the beef checkoff is how to make it go farther. Roberts said the dollar-per-head checkoff mandated in the 1980s doesn't go as far as it did back then.

"The dollar-per-head investment in the beef checkoff today is worth about 43 or 45 cents versus what that dollar was worth in terms of impact when the program started in 1985. There's no doubt in my mind that this program needs to be enhanced, it needs to be resourced at a much higher level.

"When we look at today, an average steer or heifer coming out of a feedyard and being harvested worth, say, $1,800 on a $1.50 fed-cattle market today, there's no reason there should be a dollar-a-head assessment there. There's so much opportunity that we have to take advantage of if we have this industry resourced where it needs to be.

"In terms of doing that, what we have to have is people focused on the bigger picture of what we're trying to accomplish and set aside their differences relative to policy positions, for example, and how this is a theory of a rising tide will truly float all boats. I'm confident we will be able to move this forward in a way that demonstrates alignment and collaboration. But people have to absolutely have to set aside their differences in order for that to happen."



Ron Hays talks with Forrest Roberts about the CIC and the future of the beef industry.
right-click to download mp3


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