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Meet the NCBA President
Tennessee beef producer and cattle market owner Jennifer Houston is this year’s president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) after ascending through several years on the board of directors. She is the first woman to serve as the organization’s president since Jan Lyons of Kansas in 2004.
Successful Farming magazine asked Houston about her background and passion for the beef industry.
SF: How did you get involved in beef industry leadership?
Houston: It goes back to 1985 when we started the Tennessee Beef Industry Council. The beef checkoff came into being, and we pulled together six different state groups into one for the entire industry. We agreed to leave our loyalties at the door and focus on how we could work together to promote beef.
SF: What assets do you bring to your position?
Houston: My husband, Mark, and I own the East Tennessee Livestock Center in Sweetwater, Tennessee. It’s a feeder cattle auction market, and sometimes we end up with ownership of some of them and have them fed in a feed yard in Texas. I think I’m in a unique position to see the beef industry from different angles. Many of our livestock market customers are NCBA members, but some aren’t. I want them all to be. I want to represent all of the beef industry in places like Washington, D.C.
SF: What are the key beef industry issues this year?
Houston: The number one issue is international trade. We especially want to get a bilateral trade deal with Japan, and we want the USMCA (United State- Mexico-Canada) deal ratified.
We also are working on continued regulatory reforms. One of those is the hours of service regulation in the trucking industry (extended driver hours for delivery of livestock). We have an exemption for hauling livestock that expires in September 2019. It needs to be made permanent.
We are also watching closely the regulations for lab-grown meat. Ensuring that all fake meat products are safe and accurately labeled remains NCBA’s top priority.
SF: On a practical level, how can producers get more money for their feeder calves at market?
Houston: First, get them weaned, vaccinated, and castrated before you bring them to market. Second, do all you can to get a consistent calf crop in terms of size and color. Third, have a marketing plan. Look for a special sale that might bring in some extra buyers or might highlight your calves. Just selling when you need some money is not a plan. Fourth, get to know your buyers. Figure out what they will pay top price for and then go for it.
SF: What do you do just for fun?
Houston: I read a lot. It’s all kinds of things, but a lot of fiction. That’s pure enjoyment for me. I have multiple things on my iPad most of the time. My dad used to say that I would sit and watch a cattle gate all day as long as I had a book.
Plus, we like Southeastern Conference sports. We’re big Tennessee fans!