R-CALF USA International Trade Committee Co-Chairs Dennis McDonald and Brett DeBruycker announced today that a four member fact-finding team will be dispatched to Central America on June 24, 2005, to research and analyze the support for, and impact of, the U.S.-Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) amongst Central American nations.

The team is charged with four primary goals: 1) obtain what level of support exists for CAFTA-DR amongst the populace and grassroots producers of Central America; 2) research true production numbers for agricultural products in those nations, with a special emphasis on beef production; 3) discover the actual potential for expansion in beef production; and, 4) gain overall insight into food safety conditions in processing plants.

Members of the fact-finding team are:

Max Thornsberry, DVM, MBA, Richland, Mo. Thornsberry is a past president of Missouri Stockgrower’s Association and Missouri Cattlemen’s Association and is the Region VI Director for R-CALF USA; he is licensed to practice veterinary medicine in Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska. Thornsberry owns TNT Cattle Company, a certified feeder calf preconditioning enterprise and Avanco Feeds, a veterinary and nutrition company serving the beef, dairy, swine and companion animal owners of central Missouri. 

Joel Gill, Pickens, Miss. Gill is vice-president of Mississippi Order Buyers, a family-owned cattle buying company founded by his father in 1963. He serves on the Mississippi Beef Council and is president of the Mississippi Livestock Marketing Association. Gill is the Mississippi Membership Chair for R-CALF USA. He holds Bachelor of Science degrees in Physics and Astronomy from Millsaps College. 

Doug Zalesky, PhD, Hesperus, Colo. Zalesky is a research scientist with Colorado State University and manages the San Juan Basin Research Facility near Hesperus, Colo. He earned a Master’s Degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and received his doctorate in bovine reproduction from Texas A & M University. His post-doctoral research fellowship was completed at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Zalesky is a member of the R-CALF USA International Trade Committee.

Dennis McDonald, Melville, Mont. McDonald is the current president of Montana Cattlemen’s Association and co-chairs the R-CALF USA International Trade Committee. He holds a juris doctorate degree from San Francisco Law School and is a current appointee to the U.S. Senate Agricultural Advisory Panel on Trade - WTO. Dennis and his family operate a cow/calf business and also raise registered Quarter Horses.  

The fact-finding team will depart for Central America on June 24 and is currently scheduled to visit Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Honduras. Meetings and tours will include meat-processing facilities, ranching operations, cattlemen’s groups, embassy and trade officials, and the team is scheduled to appear at a cattle show in Liberia, Costa Rica. The team will return to the United States on July 2. A national tele-news conference is being scheduled following the conclusion of their trip.