Riding the Range for Wyoming Ranchers
DENVER - Wyoming Beef Council (WBC) Executive Director Ann Wittmann has a daunting schedule. Take this page from a recent day on her calendar: work on the WBC’s budget and marketing plan which her board will vote on in April; drive 178 miles to Casper, Wyo., to facilitate a WBC-sponsored Masters of Beef Advocacy class; assist in the setup of a Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) training; drive three hours to Gillette to speak to cardiac rehab patients about the heart-healthy findings in the new Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet (BOLD) study; and head home, stopping on the way to visit with a retail meat manager.
For Wittmann, who was raised on a cattle ranch and whose family began ranching on the Green River in the 1860s, it’s a dream job.
“I love all the responsibilities that come with this job. I’ve never been bored. It’s just not possible. And I work with great folks. The beef industry tends to attract the most dedicated and passionate people,” she said. “Every day I am reminded of how remarkable they are.”
Mary Neese, the WBC’s only other staff member, who works three-quarter time, agreed. “I grew up on a ranch but my dad retired before the mandatory checkoff,” Neese said. “I knew nothing about it when I came on board here seven years ago. What I’ve learned since then, seeing our producers’ dedication – it makes me really proud to do this job so they can do theirs.”
The WBC was authorized by statute passed in the 1971 Wyoming legislature. Charter members set the collection rate to support the fledgling marketing program at 10 cents per head. One of the WBC’s first expenditures was a $10,000 contribution to the Beef Industry Council (BIC), which at the time managed national beef promotions. The WBC is still an ardent supporter of that partnership and through its investments in the Federation of State Beef Councils (formerly the BIC), has three directors on the Federation board, Wittmann explained.
Wyoming is also a strong historical supporter of foreign marketing, having contributed more than $1 million to that effort over the years.
“The overriding priority is to support national and international checkoff programs,” Wittmann said. “By pooling checkoff dollars with other beef councils, Wyoming checkoff dollars have the greatest potential to affect a positive change in consumer behavior. “Wyoming ranchers receive a greater return on their checkoff investment by working together through programs to reach consumers where beef is being consumed, rather than where it’s being raised.”
Wittmann is also the 2012-13 chair of the Federation Advisory Council, a group of SBC executives who advise the Federation on industry and state issues.