Nebraska Brand Committee hires new director |

Nebraska Brand Committee hires new director

Kearney – The Younness Convention Center, Kearney, Nebraska saw 600 registered for the annual year end Nebraska Cattlemen convention earlier this month. Trade show, committee meetings, awards, national updates and passing the reins of leadership were all part of this final gathering of the year. Though prices have declined, the general mood was overwhelmingly optimistic due to Trump’s election.

For the ten 2017 Young Cattlemen’s College participants, the convention began on Tuesday, Dec. 6. YCC is a two-year leadership program for young producers. “The next generation of Nebraska Cattlemen will ensure Nebraska remains the global epicenter of the beef industry,” said NC Executive Vice President Pete McClymont. “Our Young Cattlemen’s Conference delivers a strong foundation of industry knowledge and provides the tools these producers need to build a successful future.”

Selectees include -Kate Benjamin, Lakeside; Tabbatha Cornelius, Ainsworth; Troy Carruthers, Kimball; Steven Fish, Norfolk; Alex Heine, Lincoln; Jacob Hopwood, Holdrege; Erin Laborie, Beaver City; Andy Reigle, Humphrey; Sara Van Newkirk, Oshkosh; and Heath Weichel, Lexington.

Committee meetings

Cow/Calf, Farmer/Stockman and Seedstock councils discussed current issues. Committees for Animal Health and Nutrition, Brand and Property Rights, Education and Research, Marketing and Commerce, Natural Resources and Environment, Taxation, and Member Services hosted speakers and discussed policy.

The Animal Health and Nutrition had updates on the regulations for the Vet Feed Directive which had a packed house listening in.

Brand and property rights committee had several members of the Nebraska Brand Committee (NBC) address the recent audit conducted. NBC chairman, Jerry Kuenning, spoke about the NBC. “We’ve developed policy/statute working group that will overhaul policy and statute as well as a technology working group. The NBC continues to build relationships with the NE Beef Council, Nebraska Department of Ag (NDA), Nebraska Cattlemen (NC), Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska (ICON), NE Dairy Association and the Legislative Ag Committee.”

Brand Committee

Kuenning introduced the new executive director for the NBC. “This was the first time the NBC went outside its boundary and found a person best suited to lead the NBC,” stated Kuenning. He was emphatic that the hiring was not due to the audit. William ‘Bill’ Bunce, the new director, has over twenty-five years in the livestock industry, most recently as New Mexico’s Livestock Board executive director. He will begin his new duties Jan. 1 and will oversee the NBC’s $4.7 million budget and 100 employees.

“The rising middle class of the world will like the beef that hits their palate first, be it from Argentina or Nebraska – we need to be the first beef that touches that palate,” he said. In his first 100 days in office, he hoes to, validate and verify accuracy in documentation. “We will build relationships with media which will include delegating committee members to handle media requests.”

Jacquelin Wilson, Alliance, commented about the daunting task of reviewing and updating policies. “The policies have not been reviewed since 1973. This will be a continual work in progress. We must change our attitude and focus and run the NBC like a business, which will require a cash flow and a cash reserve. We also must work to include the NBC into the group in the open meetings statute that allows us to have conference call meetings. Now we all must physically meet to conduct business which is hard to accomplish.”

After Wilson’s presentation, NBC member, John Widdowson from Kearney and chairman of the newly formed technology committee demonstrated technology that will be utilized for Nebraska brand inspections and producers utilizing them after July 1, 2017.

“The paperwork as it is now will be obsolete. We are contracting with Nebraska Interactive, LLC to go paperless. Producers will be given a number, think of it as your social security number, no one else will have it. The inspectors will come to your farm and ranch and using smartphones or iPads, send all the info to the office. Inspections now require two funds to be collected by the inspectors – one for the beef check-off and one for the inspection fee. Those will be condensed into one payment by credit card, routing number or picture of your check.”

California, New Mexico and Oregon are utlizing similar but less advanced systems, he said. “Many states are waiting to see the success of this in Nebraska. Having the feedlots ready to receive paperless transfer of shipments will not be completed by July, but we are hoping to have them on board later.” Implementation will cost 6 cents per head and by preventing the loss of documents in the mail, the agency will save money, he said.


Keynote speaker for Thursday’s banquet was Nebraska Gov. Ricketts who applauded the beef producers for doing an excellent job. Referencing a recent trip to China, he said, “These trade missions develop connections. We had 70 Nebraskans travel with us, spending their own finances to do so. We met with countless business leaders and just in one instance, had nine contracts signed.” He said he hopes to grow exports bigger than 2015’s $2.58 billion in exports.


Governor Rickets presented ‘The Nebraska Leopold Award’ – Aldo Leopold, whose writings and land ownership inspire Sand County Foundation’s devotion to the cause of private landowner conservation leadership, wrote that the landscape of any farm is the owner’s portrait of himself. The Leopold Conservation Awards honor landowners who work ceaselessly to paint beautiful landscapes across our nation.

The Leopold Conservation Awards recognize landowners actively committed to a land ethic. Working with prominent state conservation partners, Sand County Foundation presents the award, which consists of $10,000 and a Leopold crystal, in settings that showcase the landowners’ achievements among their peers. This year’s winners were Rex and Nancy ‘Nan’ Peterson of Gordon. The Petersons, with their son, Patrick and his wife, Krista own and operate Plum Thicket Farms.

Other awards

Friend of the Foundation Award went to Al and JoAnn Svager, Cozad. The Cattlemen’s Legacy Society recognizes donors that created endowments within the NC Foundation. 2016 inductees were the Bill Riggs Family, Jim and Helen Gran and Todd Ricenbaw.

The Nebraska Beef Industry Endowment was established in December 2009 and provides grants to beef industry-related research and/or teaching positions at Nebraska post-secondary educational institutions. This award honors those professors or instructors that are providing cutting edge research and/or student instruction in a beef industry related area. For 2016, the Foundation awarded grants to Dr. Dennis Burson, Professor Meat Extension & Food Safety Specialist at UNL, Jo Beck, Professor of Animal Science at Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture and Mike Roeber, Agriculture Instructor and Livestock Judging Coach at Northeast Community College.

Nebraska Range and conservation Endowment Award went to Dr. Doug Smith, Division Chair/Assistant Professor of Animal Science and Agriculture Education at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis.

The convention concluded Friday with the business meeting. Barb Cooksley, Anselmo, gave her final address as NC president and passed the reins onto Troy Stowater, Wayne, Nebraska. Galen Frenzen, Fullerton, became president-elect and newest officer is vice-president, Mike Drinnin, Clarks. Cooksley, as immediate past president, chairs the nominating committee.