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It is a Really BIG Show - NCBA

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by Bill Zimmerman

The American Simmental Association (ASA) at the Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show.

Ed Sullivan, the host of a popular weekly TV variety show in the 1950s and 60s, started almost every show by exclaiming, “We have a really big show tonight.” It seems fitting to paraphrase that introduction to describe the annual Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show — it is a really big show. How big? According to information shared by Clint Berry, the 2019 convention in New Orleans had over 8,500 cattlemen and cattlewomen from all across the country and featured over seven acres of exhibits in the trade show. Berry, familiar to many ASA members in his role as a Commercial Marketing Specialist with Allied Genetic Resources, currently serves as the Regional Vice-President for NCBA Region 3 — Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin. The 2019 “really big show” was not a one-time fluke. The show is this big or bigger every year, and in different venues across the country from Tampa to San Diego, and San Antonio to Nashville!

When ASA members and other cattlemen cross paths during the fall each year, a common question overheard in conversations is “Are you going to NCBA?” Though officially titled the “Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show”, the event is known simply as “NCBA”. But, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) is more than a one-week annual event. And, NCBA, the event, is more than just NCBA. The Cattle Industry Convention serves as the concurrent meeting time and place for the leadership and members of NCBA, the Cattlemen’s Beef Research and Promotion Board (CBB), the American National CattleWomen (ANCW), CattleFax, and the National Cattlemen’s Foundation. Active members of these organizations are drawn to the convention to participate in membership activities, to socialize and network old and new friends, and pick up new ideas and education. Other cattlemen and cattlewomen come simply to wander through the almost endless NCBA Trade Show. Penny Zimmerman, past president of ANCW, observed, “The Convention is a place to network, to get educated at events like the Cattlemen’s College, and get new ideas learning from each other.” According to Berry, “The Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show are one of the best ways to stay informed and get engaged in the beef business.” He continued, “It’s one of the funnest ways to stay connected with others in the cattle business and meet new contacts!”

Some seedstock producers have questioned the impact of participation in these national organizations on ASA members and the seedstock industry.

In response, Jimmy Holliman, former ASA Trustee from Alabama, says his involvement in NCBA “helped me understand the bigger picture of the industry.” He observed, “The policy stuff is a side of the business we (seedstock producers) don’t see every day. Things like regulations and trade issues affect all of us, but we never think much about it.”

Fred Smith, ASA member from North Carolina agrees. Smith said, “At the end of the day, our business is producing outstanding protein for the world. NCBA works on the big issues that affect the success of the commercial beef industry — markets, rules and regulations, trade policy, environmental barriers, and people attacking beef. And, if our commercial customers cannot succeed, the seedstock industry will not succeed.”

Though each has different interests and followed different pathways, combining their volunteer leadership in the national organizations with their seedstock businesses is important to the ASA members interviewed for this article. Just appointed to a three-year term on the CBB, Zimmerman stressed that “Seedstock producers need to be aware of the preferences and expectations of consumers both in the US and the export markets.” She pointed out that there are many avenues to be involved — NCBA, ANCW, policy discussions, beef product and promotion, state beef councils, and CBB.

Berry said, “NCBA offers something for everyone with all segments having a voice. While the vast majority of members are commercial cow-calf producers, NCBA is made up of seedstock providers, stockers, backgrounders, feeders, livestock marketing agents, packers, retailers, breed associations, and allied industry partners — all critical to the overall health and success of our industry.” Smith’s involvement began in the 1980s as president of the North Carolina Cattlemen’s Association, and he was selected to attend the first NCBA Young Cattlemen Conference. Smith said the he “enjoyed the policy stuff that was important to the average commercial cattleman.” And, being involved at the state level gave him first-hand experience and information about beef industry policy issues. After a 20 year hiatus, Smith is active again as the North Carolina Cattlemen’s Association policy leader, while at the same time serving as president of the North Carolina Simmental Association.

Zimmerman said she simply “showed up one day at a Minnesota CattleWomen meeting.” And, after a few years working on beef industry education for youth, and as a presenter at the Minnesota State Fair, she became president of the state association, ANCW Region 3 Director, and 2017 ANCW president. She says, “The experience has helped me to see all facets of the industry and how it fits together to provide beef to the consumer.”

Serving in state cattlemen association leadership was also the pathway that led Holliman to NCBA committee leadership and on to his current position as Regional Vice-President for NCBA Region 2 — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. He said, “I got involved with the NCBA Cattle Health and Well-being Committee — first on the working group, then as vice chairman and then chairman. I met so many people from other areas of the country and the industry.”

Because the convention events have become a magnet for the beef industry, the NCBA Trade Show serves as a meeting place for many peripheral informal and formal meetings. In hundreds of trade show booths and displays, programs and products are offered with some promise to improve profitability and success for beef producers. Many booths are designed as gathering places for informal conversations, some as classrooms for sales presentations, and even live animal demonstration arenas. The ASA has joined with other International Genetic Solutions (IGS) partners in sponsoring just such a booth. The IGS partners sharing the booth with ASA this year were the North American Limousin Foundation and the American Gelbvieh Association. In addition to the informal gathering of ASA members, friends, supporters, and commercial cattlemen, the trade show space also served as the meeting location for the annual face-to-face meeting of the IGS partners.

“The trade show presence is important for ASA.”

“The trade show presence is important for ASA.”

The ASA and IGS booth is a place where ASA programs and successes have been showcased. In past years, the booth was used as the official rollout of the IGS Feeder Profit Calculator™ (FPC) where a constant stream of people watched and listened as Chip Kemp walked through the power of the FPC. The 2018 release of the IGS Multi-breed Genetic Evaluation powered by BOLT was another draw for producers, ag media, and others interested in visiting with Dr. Wade Shafer, ASA’s Executive Vice President, who is in high demand during trade show hours. Also, the trade show booth serves as a home base for dozens of connections and conversations with other trade show participants in a setting where the barriers of distance and travel disappear and quick face-to-face discussions are possible. Zimmerman noted that “As an ASA member, I like having the visibility that the ASA booth gives at the trade show.”

Smith agreed with Zimmerman when he said, “The trade show presence is important for ASA. In my opinion, ASA needs to be there.”

Reflecting on the ASA trade show booth from his unique perspective as a former ASA Trustee, and current member of the NCBA Executive Committee, Holliman observed, “I take ownership and pride that ASA represents us at the NCBA Trade Show. It is a place for ASA members and breeders with similar philosophies to meet and talk.” He concluded, “I wouldn’t want us not to be there. It is where all our competition is. We need to be there, too.”

The Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show will be held next year on February 5-7, 2020, in San Antonio, Texas. ASA will be there, and like everything in Texas, it will be “a really big show.”

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