If you don’t look back on the lessons you’ve learned before you move forward, you risk repeating past mistakes. That’s wisdom well earned in the beef industry, and one National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) CEO Kendal Frazier is wise to pass on to the next generation of cattle producers.
In April, Frazier detailed his plans to retire on Dec. 31, 2019. A 34-veteran of the industry, he outlined both advice and challenges during Tuesday’s episode of AgriTalk, with Greg Henderson, editor of Drovers, and Davis Michaelson, guest host of Agritalk. Click the player below to listen to the episode.
There are several challenges facing cattle producers these days, Frazier said. Alternative proteins, trade access, environmental regulations, dietary guidelines, sustainability are several of the topics cattlemen are facing.
At the forefront in recent days has been trade.
“Making sure that we have access to markets around the world for U.S. beef, because there's a there's a bright future there if we can have access to these markets around the world,” he said.
Even though he said there has been some relief in government regulations, there is still a driving force in that arena that puts cattlemen on edge.
“We've seen some good things come out of the Trump administration. But the long-term trend is to put more restrictions on land use, which raises our cost of production in the U.S. for beef, and beef cattle, and makes us less competitive in the world competitive in the world marketplace,” he said.
A success point of the past few years, he says, has been the focus on sustainability efforts. Developed with checkoff dollars, the beef cattle life cycle assessment measures the inputs of producing a pound of beef in the U.S.
“We actually are able to document that and show that we've made a lot of progress from the 1970s, and how efficient our industry really is. And, what we really contribute to greenhouse gas emissions,” he said. “Thankfully, through the foresight of the people that make checkoff funding decisions, we were able to do that. And that information has been a real key part of the work of the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. It's something that we're going to have to continue to do as we get more questions about resources in our industry.”
“We're seeing more and more advocates for agriculture pick up on this environmental work that has been done through the life cycle assessment,” he said, adding that these messages are key pieces of information to respond to anti-agricultural activists that are attacking the beef industry.
“There are well funded activist groups out there that really want to change American agriculture and change how beef is produced in the U.S. We're going to have to continue to push back against them,” Frazier said. “They're well-funded. They're very strategic in how they pick their battles, not only in the public arena, but in Washington, DC. And they're not friendly to U.S. beef production. And that will be a major challenge for this industry going forward to make sure that we have enough resources to push back against that.”
Despite these challenges, Frazier said the beef industry is full of opportunity.
“The best thing a young person can do, getting in this business is start to quickly build relationships with other cattle producers,” Frazier said. “And not only in your local county, but your state and then on the national level. Attend conventions because you'll have an opportunity to build relationships. And this is a relationship business at the end of the day.”