CBB Chair Joan Ruskamp Says to Truly Understand Checkoff's Value - You've Got to Get InvolvedThu, 02 Aug 2018 12:05:23 CDT
Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays is on location this week in Denver, covering the 2018 Cattle Industry Business Meeting, during which he had the chance to speak with Nebraska feedlot operator and Chairwoman of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board Joan Ruskamp. At this meeting, Ruskamp joins many other producers from across the nation who have come together to collectively manage the direction of Beef Checkoff funded programs that will be conducted during the next fiscal year. Listen to their complete conversation, by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page.
“Hundreds of producers are here. On the Checkoff side, we have five committees and in those committees, we listen to contractors who come to us with projects they’d like to have funded, to do things that go along with our long-range plan,” Ruskamp said. “Then we are able to give those contractors direction and eventually they’ll come back in September to receive those funds.”
The projects developed by these contractors and funded by the Checkoff are probably things you have maybe heard of but perhaps didn’t even realize were backed by the producer led Checkoff Board. These projects over the years have had a direct impact in the market by driving consumer demand and managing public perception of beef through its research and promotional efforts.
For instance, the Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner brand website and the new Rethink the Ranch campaign are both funded through the Checkoff that have been designed to keep beef on the forefront of consumers’ minds while also addressing the social issues that surround the industry today - tackling things like sustainability, health and quality. Ruskamp says it is projects like these that continue to build the industry’s relationship with consumers and their trust in the industry’s product. She says modern digital tools have been especially effective at accomplishing this goal.
“(Today’s consumers) aren’t just looking for information. They’re listening to their friends as well,” she said. “So, every time we’re able to impact one mom, one person questioning what we do or the health and quality of beef, we influence so many - because we’re all influencers anymore. When one millennial reads or sees something, it’s not just going into their mind, they’re sharing it with their peers.”
As chairwoman, Ruskamp has worked her way up the ladder through the different officer chairs of the CBB and has since become ingrained in the value that the Checkoff brings to producers. However, she admits that prior to her involvement, she really knew little about the actual operations of the Checkoff. In fact, that is why she decided to get involved in the process in the first place - to learn more about where her Checkoff dollars went and how they were being spent.
“I wasn’t really familiar with the structure very well, so there was a big learning curve when I came on board,” she remembered. “Really, the driver for me was to learn and be involved in the process.”
During her tenure on the board, she has discovered that the Checkoff speaks to consumers and fosters their confidence in beef, the industry and the people behind it.
“We do that through quality research and talking about why cattle are important and how they fit into the whole cycle of the environment,” she said before interjecting one highlight of her career, which was the opportunity to see Checkoff dollars at work across the world during a trade mission to China and Japan where she said industry partners there strive every day to promote American beef in those burgeoning markets.
Ruskamp acknowledges the concerns some people have about the Beef Checkoff and why they might be skeptical of it. She understands, because she used to be one. Her advice to others wrestling with their own concerns is to get involved.
“If you’re not certain - ask… serve… Ask how you can serve and get involved in this program, because when you get involved, you start seeing the nuts and bolts of the program,” she said. “And then you become a part of the solution. I wish producers would ask more questions because I believe in the Checkoff - it’s our voice, the voice of the producers.”
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