1. Explain your cattle operation and involvement in the beef industry. I am a fourth-generation cattle producer and am involved in a family-operated cow-calf operation based in northern California. Our winter operation is based about 100 miles north of Sacramento in the foothills of the Sacramento Valley near Chico, Calif. and our summer operation is approximately 100 miles northwest of Reno in Taylorsville, Calif. The original part of the ranch was homesteaded by my great-grandfather in the 1880s and has been expanded over the generations. The ranch is managed in partnership with my parents Robert and Nancy Foster and my brother Mark Foster. I also work part-time as a public relations consultant for several agricultural organizations.
2. What are your goals for the organization over the next few years? YPC was established to engage young producers and give them an opportunity to take on leadership roles within NCBA. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently released results from its 2007 Ag Census. Conducted every five years, the latest edition of the census reveals what many in agriculture already know. Ranchers are getting older and there appears to be fewer young people who are interested in returning to production agriculture. The average age of U.S. farm operators increased from 55.3 in 2002 to 57.1 in 2007. The number of operators 75 years and older grew by 20 percent from 2002, while the number of operators under 25 years of age decreased 30 percent. While the statistics are for all farming operations, regardless of commodity or size, they do make you wonder who will be running the ranch in the next generation. Trade association demographics follow similar trends. The average age of a National Cattlemen’s Beef Association member is 60 years old and there are concerns that there will be a void in leadership in the future. I think it is everyone’s goal that is involved with YPC to see the group support and engage those of us in that 18-35 age bracket that want to make our living in the beef industry. It is my hope that YPC will help broaden opportunities for young producers and create an avenue for the next generation of industry leadership to become involved.
3. What NCBA committee do you serve on and why are you interested in the activities of that committee? I currently serve as the YPC representative for the Property Rights and Environmental Management Committee. As a California producer, environmental issues and regulations are often some of our greatest challenges. California typically sets the stage for environmental issues throughout the country. At the same time, I have been fortunate to be involved in several groups that have taken a proactive approach to cattle production and environmental issues and have helped showcase cattle ranching’s role in preserving open space and wildlife habitat. Taking part in the NCBA Property Rights and Environmental Management Committee seemed like a natural extension of those activities.
4. What are the hot topics in your committee and what action did that committee take at the 2009 NCBA Summer Conference? There were several issues on the agenda, but one item that was a highlight included discussion of the formation of a coalition of ranching and environmental organizations to identify issues in common and work towards common goals. Those discussions culminated in the development of the Coalition for Conservation through Ranching, a new multi-stakeholder partnership between national conservation-minded groups that share an interest in promoting open space for ranching and healthy landscapes. An agreement was recently signed and includes steering members from groups such as the Public Lands Council (PLC), the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Family Farm Alliance (FFA) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Other organizations that have joined the coalition at this time are the American Farmland Trust, the American Forage and Grassland Council, the California Farm Bureau Federation, the Society for Rangeland Management, the Wild Sheep Foundation, and the Wilderness Society. The Bureau of Land Management serves as an advisor to the group.
5. Why is it important for cattle producers to be involved with NCBA and YPC? Such a small percentage of our nation’s population is involved in food production that it is imperative that producers participate in organizations that will help represent their interests in the regulatory arena and with the general public. Participating in NCBA also allows an opportunity to voice your concerns or influence policy decisions within the organization, so that it continues to represent the interests of cattle producers.
6. What are some of the largest legal issues affecting young cattle producers today? Based on experiences within my own family’s operation, the estate tax has been a huge burden that has necessitated our devoting significant resources to plan for its potential impact on transitioning the business to the next generation. Our legal business structure formation has also played a large role in determining the best transition strategies for a multi-generational ranch. From a broader perspective, many public lands ranchers have been adversely affected by litigation brought forward by anti-grazing organizations seeking to remove cattle from Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management permits. Water and land use issues are also huge influencers in the viability of keeping ranches in production for future generations.
7. What is NCBA doing in Washington to help with these concerns affecting young cattle producers? NCBA has been on the forefront on many of the issues that are of concern to producers. That’s why members hip is so important to move those efforts forward and ensure that they represent the needs of cattle producers throughout the country.