He might sit atop an organization that has almost a quarter million members and affiliated members, but no one could be more grassroots than Tracy Brunner.
He already had spent three hours on horseback gathering cattle for market when he took the time to sit down in his office Friday morning to talk about his tenure as president and spokesman for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
The fourth-generation cattleman and operator of Cow Camp Feedyard at Ramona said policies promoted by NCBA begin as ideas at the farm and ranch level, advance to the county and state level, and can make it all the way to the national level.
The organization is focusing on the sustainability of the beef industry, which Brunner said involves demonstrating that beef production is an efficient use of resources and is done in a humane manner.
“Cattlemen need to accept the responsibility to tell their story,” he said. “No one understands what we do better than cattlemen, and we have to accept that role, step up and share all the good things that go unnoticed about our contributions socially, environmentally, and economically.”
He said cattlemen not only have a responsibility to be involved in the system and work together with government, but to push back when something is going in the wrong direction.
“We’ve been working hard to try to limit the federal government’s intrusion into our private property rights,” he said. “We need the freedom to operate; we need the ability to make individual investments on our farms and ranches that are best for our individual operations.”
The federal government has instituted a Veterinary Feed Directive that requires veterinarians to write prescriptions for the use of antibiotics in livestock.
Brunner acknowledged that antibiotic resistance does take place in nature, and everyone needs to be more judicious in the use of antibiotics.
He said the biggest concern for cattlemen is the use of antibiotics that also are used in humans. More veterinary oversight will assure a higher level of diligence, Brunner said.
“The directive is coming in 2017 and we are going to make it successful,” he said. “Antibiotics are very important in animals. If an animal is sick, how can we ethically withhold treatment?”
The cattle industry is facing increased pressure to develop a better traceability system.
“An infectious animal disease could wreak havoc on our current marketing and distributing systems and cause severe economic harm to everyone in the beef chain, from producers to consumers,” Brunner said. “A simple baseline traceability system that will allow containment and eradication of a disease while maintaining consumer confidence in our industry and its product is both needed and necessary.”
His group is invested in upcoming elections.
“We need good business-minded senators and representatives who understand the importance and contribution of the cattle and beef industry,” Brunner said.
He is excited about the year ahead. He left for Orlando, Florida, on Saturday for the National Farm Bureau Convention and will head to Kentucky in a week.
“It’s very rewarding,” he said, “ to travel the country and find that cattlemen do things differently in various parts of the country and do the best they can with the resources they have, but they share the same values — faith, family, and patriotism.”