2022 NCBA President Don Schiefelbein- a Minnesota cattleman
Tri-State Livestock News sits down one-on-one with the upcoming 2022 NCBA President, a Minnesota cattleman, to discuss what is on deck for the future of today’s beef producer.
Commitment to the beef cattle industry and stewardship of the land goes hand in hand for Don Schiefelbein, the 2021 President-Elect of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). On a sunny Minnesota afternoon, cutting corn on a drought-stricken field, Schiefelbein shares over his tractor Bluetooth, his vision for the American cattlemen and women, and his goals of improving the beef industry through scientific advancements, outreach, and education all the way to the steps of Washington, D.C.
Before returning to work on the family farm, Schiefelbein served as the executive director of the American Gelbvieh Association and previously worked for the North American Limousin Association after graduating from Texas A&M University.
Schiefelbein has a long history of industry service, and most recently in his role as chairman of the Beef Industry Long Range Planning Committee. He has also held several positions on committees and the board of directors of the American Angus Association. In addition, Schiefelbein is a past president of the Minnesota Cattlemen’s Association. Schiefelbein and his wife, Jennifer, have three daughters, Shelby, Abbey, and Bailey – all of whom are active in the industry.
“My family is 100 percent dependent on animal agriculture, why would I implement policies that wouldn’t be in their best interest?” Schiefelbein says of his own passion to live today’s agricultural lifestyle.
Schiefelbein stems from a large family consisting of seven brothers, five nephews along with his father and mother who are all currently employed by their diversified family operation in Kimball, Minnesota where they operate a seedstock, cow-calf, and feedlot business.
He points out the commonality between a large family and politics, “My family operation, which is a large family, also comes with very diversified opinions and a wide range of sectors you’re trying to satisfy, nothing has prepared me better for this [the role of the 2022 NCBA President].”
“It’s still a big ship that involves lots of passengers and different perspectives.” Schiefelbein goes on to explain pointedly that until one is the driver in a leadership role, the lack of awareness of how large the beef industry is, is a factor. “It’s easy for someone in an isolated role to criticize you with an outside perspective.”
Schiefelbein admits firsthand, he too would judge from the outside looking in, not considering all of the moving parts. “I was naive as anyone, and my perspective spans all facets – seedstock all the way to cattle feeding and finishing, planning for consumers, and approving products.”
“A lot of people get locked into a single issue, they forget that tax policy, managing water, endangered species, all those are huge issues,” Schiefelbein explains. “Without a strong voice in Washington D.C. speaking for producers in the industry, our industry would be lost in the wilderness.”
When asked the question, ‘what will be your main focus while in office,’ Schiefelbein is striving to directly connect back to the working cattlemen. “I think there are a lot of producers who know how important it is for their viewpoints to get shared and have an organization that truly represents them.”
The upcoming, 2022 NCBA President stresses the point that the main driving factor of NCBA is its grassroots producers. “It hurts me to see so many producers think NCBA is operating another side, beef producers are front and center for us,” Schiefelbein puts simply.
Schiefelbein openly addressed the conflicting relationships NCBA has with other animal agriculture groups in the industry.
“All animal ag groups must get along better in order to figure out what our industry needs to do to keep progressing forward,” Schiefelbein points out. “The beef industry has too many mixed messages across groups which is slowing down the progress we can achieve. We can work better together if we stop spending so much time criticizing another beef partner.”
Schiefelbein makes it apparent that NCBA works on behalf of cattle producers, and they have someone they can rely on. “We (beef producers) make up less than two percent of all production ag, our fellow producers aren’t the enemy.”
Schiefelbein identifies a misunderstanding, that the policies being implemented come from other sources outside of agriculture. “All policies have been created by producers at our annual meetings, it’s not like we just pull these from the sky.”
“It’s our job and responsibility as officers to carry out their [beef producers] best wishes,” Schiefelbein outlines. “Producers are in the driver’s seat, it’s them telling us what needs to be done.”
What beef producers do best – sustainable practices
Another important aspect for Schiefelbein during his upcoming term is addressing how to help the average beef producer tell their story, and more importantly, outline their dedication to sustainability in day-to-day operations.
“If you look at how beef producers communicate the things we are actually doing very well, is comparable to a guilty person,” Schiefelbein says. “If they think they aren’t good at something, they run away, as the beef industry is doing the opposite approach when it comes to bragging about our sustainability practices.”
Schiefelbein explains how producers should promote their stories as beef producers and stewards of the land dedicated to improving the sustainability of food production. “What we’re able to do with the land and cattle, that needs to be a shouting point through our sustainability efforts.”
“I bring to the table a different perspective, involvement in a variety of different segments in the industry, and am dedicated to communicating to our grassroots beef producers,” Schiefelbein explains as he understands sometimes, people in leadership roles take for granted how to listen to beef producers in what they really want to see accomplished.
“As I learned previously working for breed associations – when you mess with someone’s livelihood, you better listen closely to what they have to say because they are giving you very keen advice on what producers are saying and implementing policies,” Schiefelbein sheds light on.
“To me, leadership is being able to engage with the membership and if we can – grow their ability to be successful and profitable, implement policies that help everyone, and make the beef industry better and more sustainable in the process,” Schiefelbein concludes.
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