Humble gratitude and honor. Commitment and resolve. Anticipation and determination. These summarize the feelings that surround me these days, along with recognition and appreciation for the trust that has been extended to me by the Executive Committee as well as the full Board of Directors of ABBA, and certainly, with thanks to the many friends and colleagues who quietly encouraged and candidly explained the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. To those very few who I have met so far, thank you. And, to the thousands of members throughout the USA and other countries, you have my commitment.
As this is being penned, Hurricane Harvey, a storm of unprecedented damage, has just left much of South Texas, including thousands of miles of farm, ranch and cattle country severely damaged, and tonight, Hurricane Irma is hitting the state of Florida with yet another wake of unprecedented damage. These are hard hits. Ranches held for generations by the same family will be impacted with carefully-planned breeding programs perhaps interrupted. Programs just being started by new members and young ranchers will have their fortitude tested. Without doubt, the commercial customer base, our clients and friends will be impacted through loss of crops, grazing country and facilities. It is a time to come together. It is a time to offer help.
One of the most heartwarming things I have been a part of, albeit distantly, was the immediate response of the ABBA membership to rise to the occasion, taking the fight right back to the storm and offering formal assistance to those producers who were in the path of the storms. As well, regulatory agencies, such as the Texas Animal Health Commission, jumped into the fight and began airlifts of hay to cattle stranded by high water. These are things to be extremely proud of. These are our people. These are our kind. And, I believe I speak for all of us in livestock production agriculture... It is why we do what we do. To raise a good product, to be “efficiency specialists” in tough environments and circumstances and be surrounded by friends and colleagues that are there when the going gets tough.
Globally, we have our marketing challenges and opportunities as well. Not even counting the US domestic market, there are more market opportunities than we have time and resources to reach. The Tropic of Capricorn passes through 11 countries. The Tropic of Cancer passes through an additional 19 more. That is 30 countries that have a need, an environment and a customer base that is ours to develop. That doesn’t even include the number of countries within the two latitudes. It is our market to win if things are done right. And, conversely, it is our market to lose if things are not done correctly, or not attempted at all. First, whether domestically or internationally, there is education and information to be disseminated. Next, there is exposure... to good cattle and to good people. The kind of cattle that pedigree, performance and phenotypic expression all prove the quality of. And to the kind of people who are there for you, when the storm hits. The kind of people who guarantee a product. Finally, and often the hardest part, is when somebody gets to “ask for the order.” It is the offer to sell. If we’ve earned the right to ask for the order, and if we get the right cattle in the right place, it will be a good deal for all parties involved. It will be a win, and it will set the stage for continued growth.
The great founders of this breed knew exactly what they were doing. They looked for growth of membership with every passing year and increased sales with every passing calf crop. They dedicated their lives, their livelihoods and their resources to achieve success. It is our responsibility and our privilege to carry it forward. To protect the integrity of the breed and to reach those new markets and to expand current ones.
I’m going to need your help. But, you have my commitment to do those very things. I’m both thankful and proud to be a part of the history of this great breed of cattle, the Association and the great people behind it.