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Young Cattlemen's Conference

05 September 2017

A Valuable Experience

by Chris Martin

Chris Martin
As a general rule, I don't like politics. I know just enough to know there's a lot I don't know, so I'm more comfortable talking about just about anything else. Take the weather, for instance. I can usually weigh in with an opinion about the weather. May 31 through June 9 marked the 2017 Young Cattlemen's Conference (YCC) hosted by NCBA (National Cattlemen's Beef Association). YCC is an annual pilgrimage attended by representatives from each affiliate of NCBA ages 25 to 50 who receive a comprehensive, "gate to plate" overview of the beef industry. Delegates travel from Denver to Chicago to Washington D.C. and engage in dialogue with feedlot and packing plant operators, retail beef marketers, and their own representatives on Capitol Hill. More than 1,000 cattlemen and women from across the country have graduated from the YCC experience since 1980.

As this year's American Simmental Association representative, I was privileged to attend YCC hoping to gain insight and knowledge. The tour started at the NCBA headquarters in Denver where staff shared an organizational overview and history of our national association. Before the end of the first day, participants took part in an interactive personality insights training, heard presentations about NCBA communications and Cattle Fax analyses, and gained a retailer's perspective from representatives of Cargill and Safeway. A tour of the NCBA offices and a delicious prime ribeye steak dinner hosted by Cargill punctuated our introduction to what was in store for the next several days.


On day two, the delegates boarded buses for Greeley, CO, where we toured JBS Beef Plant, the largest beef processor in the country, processing 5,500 beef animals a day. After the plant tour was a visit to JBS Five River's Kuner Feedyard, a 100,000 head capacity feed yard, followed by a stop at JBS headquarters and a panel Q&A with the JBS executive team. A special stop on our return trip to Denver was Greeley Hat Works whose team of qualified hat fitters welcomed us with open arms despite the fact we all smelled like a feedlot!

The third day in Denver took us back to the NCBA office where we were educated on the Beef Checkoff Program and then prepared to address media and consumer questions and concerns. For those of us who are seldom faced with the opportunity to answer these types of questions, know that we producers have the support of a qualified team who has that opportunity on a regular basis. We were taught how to respond
in real time and to share “the two C’s” all beef producers should be prepared to explain to those who don’t understand our industry or what we do every day— “We Care,” and “We’re Capable.”
After a pleasant visit to one of Safeway’s flagship retail outlets, sixty-two of us boarded a plane for Chicago where we would spend the next twenty-four hours of the nine-day stretch. We enjoyed Gino’s deep dish Chicago-style
pizza followed by drinks on the 96th floor of the John Hancock building and a night out on the town in The Windy City before visits to OSI Industries, McDonald’s largest hamburger patty supplier; McDonald’s Campus Office Building where lunch consisted of
McDonald’s new fresh ground beef Quarter Pounder cheeseburger; and Bruss Company, a subsidiary of Tyson Foods that procures beef and portions steaks and other cuts of meat to customers’ exact specifications. The tour’s final stop was Washington
D.C. where delegates were prepped to engage their own legislators regarding issues relevant to the beef industry. 

Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, Colin Woodall led a qualified NCBA staff in briefing all of us less qualified to discuss political issues. As I listened and learned and took notes, I gained an extensive appreciation for the work of NCBA and all the staff dedicated to my best interests as a beef producer. Before the day would end, even those of us who started out less comfortable talking about political issues were prepared to discuss tax reform and repeal of the estate or “death” tax to protect farms and ranches passing from one generation to the next; the important and costly need to arm the 2018 Farm Bill with provisions to protect against foot and mouth disease; the Farm Regulatory Certainty Act which protects farmers and ranchers against being lumped in with landfills in consideration of certain waste disposal; reform or modernization of the Endangered Species Act especially important to our western counterparts grazing public lands; and support of NAFTA and bilateral trade agreements in order to cultivate and sustain global or international beef markets. Armed with knowledge of the issues, a few talking points, and a newfound confidence, we headed to Capitol Hill the next morning to discuss these issues with our own representatives. By and large, the Tennessee delegation found a great deal of support on the ag policies we discussed; however, it wasn’t as easy for some delegates from other states who faced more opposition on certain topics.  After our day on The Hill, delegates from every state represented shared notes from each legislative visit with NCBA staff so our lobbyists would be prepared to respond where needed. The conference ended with a robust NCBA PAC auction to help support our PAC efforts. 

I still can’t say I like politics, but I can say I am informed on current topics that are relevant to the industry in which I work every day. And I have a whole new appreciation for the organization that works on my behalf to protect me and the interests of all of us in the beef industry. I want to formally thank NCBA and the American Simmental Association
for the opportunity to become a part of the YCC family, and I encourage all of you who might think any part of this trip is out of your comfort zone to reconsider letting that keep you from applying in the future. If you’re in the beef business and you intend to stay in the beef business, YCC is ten days well worth the price of admission.



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