New NCBA President well represents the diversity of the cattle industry
John Queen wouldn't be the typical beef producer to lead the nation's largest cattle organization, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. Yet that's what this North Carolina producer, a stocker operator and order buyer, will be elected to do this week at the NCBA annual meeting in Nashville. He'll take over from Mike John, cow-calf producer from northern Missouri.
Queen thinks his background in various segments of the beef industry well qualifies him to lead it.
"I've been a backgrounder, an order buyer, twice in the sale barn business, and I run a video auction business." he told Agriculture Online in an exclulsive interview today. "I've made a lot of friends and good relationships along the way. I think I'm well prepared to represent them all."
Queen admits these are challenging times in the beef business, with prices sliding downhill and feed costs skyrocketing. But he welcomes the leadership role at this time.
Question: What do you see as the top 3 issues you'll deal with in the next year?
Queen: First will probably be the farm bill and it's implications on energy policy. Ethanol seems to be THE topic of interest here at this meeting. We've said over and over in this organization that we won't support a farm bill that favors one commodity over another. People are working here this week on the farm policy that we can support, and we'll have a good policy proposal to come out of it.
Another issue would be international trade. We think we've regained about 70% of the trade we had before BSE hit here. We've got to have more.
Another issue would be the overall political climate. We've lost a lot of friends in government [with the Democratic takeover of both houses of Congress]. But, we still have some good friends left, and we'll make some new ones. We're a 108-year-old organization and we've always worked well with all administrations and parties. We'll be doing that for a long time.
Question: With your connections to the auction markets, where do you stand on the animal ID issue?
Queen: We need to get on board with it as quickly as possible. Good sale barn operators should be the leaders in showing the ways that animal identification can increase value in our business. My own area is made up largely of small producers, with an average herd size of just 23 head. We're a nation of small beef producers, and we need them all to see the value of getting their premise ID in place. That will open the door for them to the world marketplace, so they can compete there.
Question: How is membership doing in NCBA?
Queen: We grew 8% last year, to 28,800 members. In the southeastern district, we grew 75%. We did that by hiring an NCBA field representative for that district, as an experiment, and it was a great success. My hope is to expand that and get a field rep in the other 6 regions, and we can continue to grow.
Our big challenge is to educate beef producers as to how important it is for him or her to join us and let his voice be heard. We live by the one person, one vote rule, whether you have 5 head of cattle or 5,000. Our policy decisions start and stop with that individual member.