You can take the boy off the farm but you can’t take the farm out of the boy. That’s what I’ve discovered. I make a living at Malone University, but I make my life right here on the farm.
My family has a commercial cow/calf operation in the northeast part of Stark County. It’s my passion and my retirement dream. I consider it a small outfit, at least in comparison to some of the bigger ranches you might find in other parts of the country. That’s okay, though. We’re right where we want to be for our future and the future of our family.
Someone recently asked me what the future of the beef industry looks like, in my mind. I worry about that. In the U.S., we’re at the lowest levels of cattle in 50 years. A lot of effort is being made to get more young people involved in cattle by increasing county fair beef show numbers. The country has some growing to do as a whole and everyone needs to grow together. The long term doesn’t look as clear as what the near term does.
Now my task is to figure out how I can help make the future a little less cloudy. I’m only one man, so how can I shape the future of an entire industry? Luckily, I don’t have to. The Ohio Beef Council will do that for me through the Ohio Beef Checkoff.
The cost of promoting anything has become so outrageous. I can’t do the necessary advertising to promote the whole business. I can only do a small piece, but when I work with the other folks in the industry we become a bigger piece that can really make a difference. That’s where the Beef Council is useful. They do the things that I can’t to be resourceful and work through the media outlets to show the public that we have a healthy, affordable, convenient product.
Unfortunately, in 29 years, a lot has changed. Prices have gone up but the Checkoff hasn’t. Today’s dollar won’t even buy half of what it could in 1985. Now, there is an opportunity to nearly triple the amount of money available in Ohio to educate consumers and promote the industry, by simply raising the Checkoff from $1 to $2.
The biggest problem is getting beef producers to see the value of the Checkoff. Some don’t believe it’s fair because they’re forced to pay for something and they think that’s an infringement on their rights. Now someone wants them to double it and that’s a little more difficult to sell.
National surveys show that producer approval of the Beef Checkoff increases with knowledge of Checkoff programs. I would like everyone to see the value of the Checkoff. There are people who don’t even know what it does. They think it’s paying salaries and don’t understand that it’s making money for them. The University of Florida estimates a $5.55 return on every dollar invested in the Checkoff. Some farmers may not realize that the Cattlemen’s Association doesn’t benefit from the Checkoff, and that’s our fault; we have not done a good job of explaining all of those benefits.
I have a unique perspective because I spent six years on the board for the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association. I’ve seen firsthand what the Beef Council can do with the money and the impact it has. With the decreasing budget, we’ve had to be very creative with strategies for promotion, research and development. This increase would afford us a little bit more latitude to be more aggressive. For example, we can hit a lot of schools. We can “open up the barn doors” and let people see what we do. We have nothing to hide. We’re all good stewards and we’re very careful. We want people to see that.
My family has four generations of cattle farmers, starting with my grandparents. I took over for my father and I look forward to my son and grandson having a part in this some day. There’s a legacy I want to leave for future generations. It’s about providing a product that we enjoy ourselves and want to share. We have a product that my grandparents were proud to put on their families’ plates, and I can continue that.
I’m going to do my part by voting for the new Checkoff. Mail-in voting is currently taking place until March 20. Ballots can be found at OhioCattle.org. In-person voting is March 18-20 at the Ohio Department of Agriculture in Reynoldsburg or at any OSU Extension county office.