Connecting members with the latest news from USAHA
The District-At-Large – USAHA’s Most Unique District
USAHA’s District-At-Large (DAL) is unique because it is geography-neutral. It comprises USAHA’s allied organization members, elected regional delegate members and past-presidents. The DAL is often described as the “industry district”, but do not underestimate the importance of the DAL within USAHA based on the brevity of that label. To quote Dr. Tim Richards, DAL Vice-Chair, “USAHA’s existence is predicated on the fact that industry exists; conversely, industries can’t exist without organizations like USAHA. Our charge as an organization is to foster that symbiotic relationship and use it to the benefit of both sides.”
Some national organizations limit their membership rosters to only one sector (veterinarians, pork producers or transporters, for instance). USAHA is inclusive and benefits from offering membership to individuals and organizations across the agriculture sector continuum. The DAL embodies this vision of inclusivity, and the value of industry involvement can be felt at every level of USAHA, from the executive committee to the Board of Directors to the subcommittees.
Collectively, DAL members keep USAHA’s policy discussions grounded and help ensure that resolutions considered by the membership and Board of Directors have real-life significance. The DAL unites a diverse roster of industry experts and offers a forum for their unified voice. This collective industry voice lends credibility to USAHA and makes us a more effective organization. The DAL has worked hard over the past year to re-brand itself, and we encourage you to keep reading to learn more about the work of this important and unique district.
Gene is a sixth generation Floridian who has spent his life in ranching and agriculture. He is the manager of Buck Island Ranch, a large-scale working cattle ranch owned by Archbold Biological Station. In addition to raising cattle, Gene helps conduct agro-ecology research on all aspects of the ranching operation on behalf of Archbold, which focuses on long-term ecological research, education, and environmental stewardship on large-scale working cattle ranches. Gene sums up this important work by saying, “Our program is part of the global effort to sustain working farms, and ranches while managing their ecological and environmental issues.”
Mr. Gene Lollis, DAL Chair
Tim is a sixth generation kamaaina resident of Hawaii and third generation to the Big Island. He was born and raised in North Kohala and grew up working on his family’s Kahua ranch. Tim practices veterinary medicine in Waimea and is currently serving his second term as District 9 member of the Hawaii County Council. In that capacity, Tim serves as chair of the Committee on Agriculture, Water, Energy and Environmental Management and vice chair of the Finance Committee.
Dr. Herbert “Tim” Richards III, DAL Vice-Chair
A New Vision for the DAL
U.S. agriculture grapples with an interesting paradox: economic input vs. food security. The output of U.S. farms and ranches contributes about 1% to the national GDP, but U.S. consumers would starve to death or at least pay a lot more to fill dinner plates without the food produced by our nation’s farmers and ranchers, some of whom are DAL members. The agriculture sector always seems able to rise to the challenge of producing safe and affordable food. The DAL leadership recognizes the benefit of uniting a diverse group of farmers and ranchers around food security, a theme that gives all producers a common voice -- regardless of species interest or focus area.
To maintain an industry sector connection between annual USAHA meetings, DAL Chairs Lollis and Richards have committed to hosting at least three conference calls per year and using the DAL platform to discuss and support “the economy of agriculture” in a holistic manner. While each DAL member may produce a different species or market products in unique ways, there are common themes important to food security that unite diverse sectors and promote policies that are beneficial to all, such as biosecurity, transportation and navigating evolving consumer perceptions.
Focusing on unifying themes builds camaraderie and fosters collaboration among a diverse group of farmers and ranchers to ensure that each individual, sector or node along the continuum is strong and sustainable. It also makes USAHA the ideal forum for DAL member engagement with state and federal animal health authorities on topics of common interest. This modernized vision will help the DAL remain an integral part of USAHA into the future, or a “homeroom for animal industries”, as the chairs like to say.
USAHA is fortunate to have such an engaged group of district leaders and members. These individuals are committed to excelling in and supporting the needs of our nation’s diverse agricultural industries and utilizing USAHA’s committee structure and resolution process to ensure their unified voice contributes to the development of sound policy.
Expert Perspectives on COVID-19
The global pandemic has tested U.S. agriculture in ways that were unfathomable only a few months ago. COVID-19 has highlighted gaps in our food production systems and afforded critical infrastructure managers and owners the opportunity to adjust business models to ensure flexibility and sustainability during future animal-centric and all-hazard emergencies.
The USAHA leadership team had an opportunity to interview DAL Chairs Lollis and Richards and USAHA Second Vice-President, Mr. Steve Rommereim (a South Dakota-based pork producer) regarding their thoughts on COVID-19, including lessons learned from and silver linings to, this pandemic. Here is what these experts had to say:
What are the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic in your agriculture sector?
- We must sustain the “food chain” by building resiliency within the nodes along that continuum. COVID-19 has highlighted the fact that agricultural commodity transportation systems and slaughter/processing sectors are fragile and poorly understood by consumers. Society does not support something it does not understand.
- When people are hungry, the appreciation for agriculture escalates. We have a window of opportunity to build resiliency into our food production systems with public support. We must take advantage of this opportunity in a timely and smart manner or our systems will revert to the status quo and history will repeat itself during the next emergency.
- Infrastructure resiliency and sound policy development are the keys to recovery. Agricultural sectors are coming together to strengthen the country’s critical infrastructure, and USAHA must promote policy that helps build this resiliency. DAL members can inform these discussions at the organizational level.
Has COVID-19 helped you identify any “silver linings” for your agricultural sector?
- Consumers have greater appreciation for more diversified food production systems across all sectors, and the benefits of local or regional food production and consumption are being realized across the country.
- The pandemic has forced agricultural businesses to be more creative in their production, transportation and sale of protein-based food products to meet these evolving consumer expectations. Some of these creative alternatives will persist beyond the COVID recovery period and will become part of the fabric of a new, more resilient U.S. food production system.
- COVID-19 has forced industry members across all sectors to come to the proverbial table to figure out recovery plans. Some of these discussions touch on facets of our food production system that have needed attention for quite some time, but we kept kicking the can down the road. COVID has forced us to pay attention to, and hopefully fix, these weak points sooner than we otherwise may have, and that benefits everyone.
What will be the new norm for your industry sector post-COVID?
- Producers in each sector will prioritize strategic business planning that will enable them to adapt efficiently to sweeping overnight changes across the agricultural landscape.
- Demand for local products will increase, and successful producers will align their business plans to meet that demand.
- Producers from across sectors will appreciate the common themes in animal-based food production that do not discriminate against species and will use that common ground to problem-solve for the benefit of all.
- Thank you, Gene Lollis, Dr. Tim Richards, and Steve Rommereim, for sharing your perspectives on this unprecedented event.
- Based on this feedback, it is clear our 2020 USAHA meeting will be an important hub for critical discussion, and our DAL members will be front and center in those conversations. Please join us in Nashville for those discussions!
How Can You Promote Industry Engagement?
The USAHA annual meeting fosters professional networking, and we all benefit from interacting with colleagues outside of our sector silos when we gather in person in different locations around the country. Here are some ways you can facilitate industry engagement in USAHA during annual meetings and the intervening times:
- Even if you are not a farmer or rancher, attend the DAL meeting in Nashville! This event is equivalent to the geographic district meetings held around the country in the spring, albeit condensed. The DAL meetings are open to all annual meeting attendees. Stop in briefly or stay a while to take part in the discussions that are pertinent to the industry sectors of our membership. You are certain to learn something new or make a new professional connection.
- Encourage industry members in your community to become engaged in USAHA. The spring district meetings are a great first step into the USAHA family. Those meetings are often attractive to producers because attendance requires less time away from busy farms and ranches, and the discussion topics are of regional, and therefore pertinent interest. If you are a geographic district leader, remember your industry sector as you are scheduling meeting discussion topics and tours.
- Prior to those meetings, reach out to Mr. Lollis and Dr. Richards, or Ben and Kelly to help identify potential members in your area to add to your invite list. Attracting new members is great, but ongoing collaboration with existing member colleagues fosters strong bonds over time that are mutually valuable.
- Encourage engaged industry members to assume a leadership role on behalf of your district. DAL members often serve as regional delegates. Two delegates representing each geographic district are elected annually by the membership. These delegates serve on the USAHA Board of Directors, attend their respective regional meetings, and have USAHA voting privileges.
- If you are a DAL member, engage! Your chairpersons are enthusiastic and have big plans for your district. Make sure you contribute to the evolution that is happening within this important district and that benefits USAHA in so many ways.
Welcome New Members!
- Paola Boggiatto - ARS USDA
- John Clifford - USAPEEC
- Robert Fathke - VA-MD Regional College of Vet Med
- Lucia Hunt - Minnesota Dept of Agric
- Carrie Jo - TX Animal Health Commission
- Kevin Keel - University of California, Davis
- Amanda Price - Utah Dept of Agric
- Will Sander - University of Illinois
- Caleb Smith - Peacebunny Islands, Inc
- Dean Taylor - Utah Dept of Agric
- Jonathan Tomkovitch - USDA-FSIS
- Kimberly Hencken - TX Dept of State Health Svcs
- Helen Jones - University of Georgia
- Shawn Kozlov - VA-MD College of Veterinary Medicine
- Rebekah Larson - Lincoln Memorial University
- Tara Prezioso - The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
- Britt Waranius - VA-MD College of Veterinary Medicine