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Guest Opinions

Opinion by Ann Wittman

Written by Ann Wittman
Where are We and Where are We Going?
By Ann Wittmann, executive director, Wyoming Beef Council

    “If we could first know where we are and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do and how to do it.” – Abraham Lincoln
    Every year I write an article about the Wyoming Beef Council’s mission and plan, and each year, I am challenged to find a way to make it as compelling and fascinating as I find it. This year, my strategy is to start the article with a quote from Lincoln. My second choice was to quote my grandfather who used to say, “If it ain’t broke, chances are it’s going to be.”
    Lincoln and Grandpa were both right. Often, we get into the grind of our daily lives, and when we look up, we find ourselves in a cloud of dust that can leave us disoriented or confused. Recently, a wave of negative social media around beef production and processing issues created such a cloud. Thankfully, in the spirit of Lincoln and my Grandpa, the industry successfully came together to respond, and we are wiser and better for it. My point is that we can’t be too observant of “where we are and whither we are tending.” Nor should we assume that strategies and tactics that are successful today will be as successful in the future. We all know the dangers of avoiding change, as well as the dangers of jumping into change with wild abandon. The key is to know when to change and what to change; in my mind, the only way to do that is with solid data.
    Making sound decisions from solid data is the foundation of how the members of the Wyoming Beef Council (WBC) ensure that your beef checkoff dollars are used efficiently and effectively. Each year, the WBC reviews cattle and human population statistics, consumption data and consumer trends in order to best assess the climate for marketing beef. This in-depth look at data and issues is critical to ensuring accountability for the expenditure of Wyoming beef checkoff dollars. In addition to the intensive planning process, each program funded with beef checkoff dollars – whether conducted in Wyoming or by national contractors – is evaluated for success. This allows checkoff decision makers at all levels to ensure accountability and determine future funding options based on strategic importance and impact.
    The WBC consumer and industry review revealed that Wyoming is home to 544,000 people and 1.3 million cattle. This breaks down to nearly 2.5 bovines per person. Recent research shows that Wyomingites consume 6 pounds more beef per year than the average U.S. consumer. We also know that that demand for beef in the U.S. is still relatively strong in spite of the high retail cost, and our global market and opportunities continue to grow. In fact, there are nearly three times as many beef consumers worldwide than there were 10 years ago.
    The WBC anticipates revenue in the amount of $950,000 in fiscal year 2013, half of which will be sent to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board per the Beef Promotion Act of 1985 (BPRO) under which the assessment is collected. The remaining $475,000 will be spent at the discretion of the Wyoming producers who serve on the WBC. It is important to recognize that these expenditures must still fall within BPRO guidelines.
    Given Wyoming’s current cattle and human population statistics, U.S. consumption data and consumer trends, the overriding priority of the WBC is to support the development and implementation of beef promotion and education programs on a national level. By pooling checkoff dollars with other state beef councils, Wyoming producer dollars have the greatest potential to affect a positive change in consumer behavior. To that end, the WBC will provide financial support for national and international marketing programs to be evaluated by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Specifically, $125,000 will be sent to the Federation of State Beef Councils for national beef promotion and $93,000 will be sent to the USMEF for international marketing efforts. Fifty thousand dollars of the USMEF investment will be used in a targeted direct market program to be conducted in Japan when the 20-month restriction is lifted. This program will feature the WBC logo and will draw attention to Wyoming beef producers. I look forward to sharing more information with you about this program as it develops.
    Although national and international markets present great opportunities for effective and efficient use of checkoff funds, it is also important to keep a positive industry and product image at home. State-specific programs planned for the upcoming fiscal year include the dissemination of the newly released BOLD (Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet) research to dietitians, health professionals and health influencers and recruitment of health-conscious members for a Team Beef running team. The WBC will also focus on increasing public relations efforts in all program areas to cost effectively promote the beef industry and our product. Wyoming beef consumers and producers can expect to hear “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner” radio advertising throughout the year as well as read periodic print advertising in the Casper, Cheyenne, Gillette and Laramie newspapers. Council staff will also continue to send newsletters to Wyoming dietitians, county extension personnel and other health professionals to provide them facts regarding the healthful benefits of beef. Funding was also approved for several Wyoming Ag in the Classroom and Wyoming CattleWomen educational programs.
    Checkoff dollars will be used to encourage production of quality beef animals, provide information to students participating in Wyoming 4-H and FFA programs and financial support to ensure the continuation of the Wyoming Beef Quality Assurance program. The WBC also allocated funds for radio and newspaper advertising to communicate with producers about how their checkoff funds are being spent. Producers can also expect to receive periodic newsletters in their mailboxes designed for this purpose as well
    Rest assured that all of these programs will be evaluated based on strategic importance and impact so that when planning time for fiscal year 2014 begins, decisions about how best to use your checkoff investment to increase beef demand will be based on solid, reliable information.
    More information about the WBC and a copy of the FY2013 marketing plan can be found at wybeef.com.