Ellis recounts year as president of national cattle organizationWritten by Saige Albert
Chugwater – In one year, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Immediate Past President Philip Ellis estimates that he’s been in over 25 airports, more than 16 states and at six national meetings – and that only accounts for those he can recall offhand.
“This was a fabulous year personally, and the beef industry had some successes and challenges,” Ellis says. “As the great-grandson of an open-range cowboy who became a pioneer Wyoming cattleman, to look at every sector of the industry and every segment along the beef chain, to visit with folks across the country and understand their concerns and to see the progress made across generations was really impressive.”
He adds that, during the year, the beef industry tackled some important challenges.
One of the first major challenges NCBA tackled during Ellis’ year at the helm was related to the dietary guidelines.
“When I started my year, we had a report from the Science Advisory Panel to the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services,” he says. “The report had not even included red meat as a part of the diet, and they wandered off into environment and sustainability issues.”
Ellis also notes that the involvement of cattlemen and state associations across the country was essential to the successful outcome of the issue.
“We kept the pressure on all year, and we had a lot of research to bring to the table,” he explains. “Our Washington, D.C. staff in the policy arena talked to the Secretaries and regulators to pass on our information.”
When the report was released in January 2016, he adds that red meat was included as important for a healthy diet and environmental and sustainability commentary was not referenced.
“We checked this issue off as a success,” Ellis says.
Ellis notes that, also related to health, the International Agency on Research for Cancer (IARC) report on cancer and beef was a concern for NCBA.
“This was something that has been brewing for several years,” Ellis says. “We were, of course, positioned well by our staff. Our Interim CEO Kendal Frazier and I were at a meeting in Mexico, so we left early to be back when the report came out.”
After IARC released the report implicating red meat as a potential cancer-causing agent, Ellis, along with Shalene McNeil, NCBA nutrition expert, did more than 50 telephone interviews with the media.
“Our data research indicates that 70 percent of messages related to the report did have our message included,” he says. “We had our balanced message about red meat and beef in the media.”
Ellis adds that, by the end of the same week the report was issued, conversations about the report were nearly nonexistent.
“That is why we have trade associations – both state and national – and why we have the beef checkoff,” he says. “This is just another example of beef promotion and research working hand-in-hand with issues and policy management to keep our positive message at the top of consumers’ minds.”
The Waters of the U.S. rule was another top priority issue for NCBA during 2015, although Ellis notes they have seen setbacks in eliminating the detrimental regulation.
“We tried to stop the Waters of the U.S. rule, and we didn’t get it done,” he says.
With more and more farms and ranches across Wyoming affected by overreach of the Environmental Protection Agency in their regulation of water bodies not intended to be covered by the Clean Water Act, Ellis says, “This rule will be a top priority for 2016, as well, as Tracy Brunner of Kansas takes over as president.”
“This was a pretty exciting year,” Ellis comments, joking, “for a Wyoming kid, I got to the point where I enjoyed getting on an airplane.”
As he traveled across the country, he adds that he always wore boots, a cowboy hat and, often, an NCBA shirt.
“Those clothes got me into many conversations,” he says. “By the time I got to a state association meeting, I’d already had conversations about beef with people ranging from fellow passengers to flight attendants to airplane captains. Then I got to sit and visit with beef cattle people.”
“Sometimes we get discouraged on the ranch, but we are right for the land we are stewarding, and we are raising the right protein product for people here at home and abroad,” Ellis comments. “People should have the opportunity to eat beef. We raise a great product that is good for the land and good for the world.”
“The past year was a remarkable year,” Ellis comments, “and I look forward to continuing to be a part of NCBA leadership as Immediate Past President this year.”