Since 1980, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) has hosted the Young Cattlemen’s Conference (YCC) to train and enhance leadership skills in beef industry professionals. Alex Johns, director of Natural Resources, represented Florida and the Seminole Tribe at the 2013 conference, joining the list of more than 1,000 graduates of the program.
During the eight-day conference from May 30 to June 6, Johns experienced different aspects of the cattle industry, “from pasture to plate.” Traveling by buses and airplanes, the participants toured the country visiting facilities in Colorado, Illinois and Virginia.
The tour began in Denver, with personality profiling, training and leadership classes. The group listened to presentations by representatives from Cattle Fax – a global leader in beef industry research, analysis and information – and the U.S. Meat Export Federation – a nonprofit trade association working to create new opportunities and to develop existing international markets for U.S. beef, pork, lamb and veal.
The 50-person group also spent a day at the JBS Five Rivers feed yards and processing facilities in Greeley, Colo.
“It is really important for participants to see each sector of the beef industry – from farm to fork,” Johns said. “Traveling from a cow/calf ranch to a feedlot and processing plant really drives home the point that our industry is composed of many sectors which are all committed to produce a healthy end product.”
In Chicago, Johns learned about trade opportunities in the industry. He and the group met with the senior management of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange at the Chicago Board of Trade. Johns said they also met the Canadian trade ambassador, which was a great connection to make because Canada is an important trading partner of the U.S.
While in Washington, D.C., participants learned about policy issues within the cattle industry and had the opportunity to meet their state’s congressional delegation to discuss any opinions and concerns about their cattle operations. They focused on issues like the 2013 Farm Bill, federal lands ranching and overreaching regulations proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency.
As the director of Natural Resources, Johns is particularly interested in passing the 2013 Farm Bill. The bill supports America’s farmers, ranchers and consumers through initiatives including commodity programs, agriculture research, trade and rural development. Johns said the best way to get the bill passed is by expressing support for it.
“Cattle owners need to be in support of the Farm Bill to get it passed,” he said. “A lot of them don’t believe they have a voice, but it’s a matter of picking up the phone and calling the congressmen and letting them know they are in support of it or not.”
Johns stressed the importance of grassroots movements and listening to the people who start them. He is always open to hear their opinions and act as the liaison between cattle owners and congressmen.
Johns, who has worked for the Seminole Tribe for 15 years, began his career as a day worker and earned the director of Natural Resources position two years ago. His daily responsibilities include managing a 10,000-plus brood cow herd, mining, sugarcane farming and a branded beef program.
He serves on the Florida Beef Council and the Florida Cattlemen’s Executive Board. Johns was chosen to attend YCC because of his experience.
“YCC is a prestigious and competitive program designed to foster the future leadership of our industry,” said Forrest Roberts, NCBA chief executive officer. “The participants selected to attend YCC were chosen because of their exceptional contributions to the beef industry and their potential to be a strong voice in our future development. I look forward to seeing Alex take an increased leadership role within NCBA and the beef industry.”
With plenty of tactics taken from the 34th YCC, Johns wants to focus on developing those strategies to better market beef. He has an improved understanding of how the system operates and plans to use modern technology to advance the cattle program.