Last fall, when Forrest Roberts went looking for greener pastures, The NCBA tapped Kendal Frazier, their COO, to temporarily hold the CEO reins. They wanted lots of time to survey the land for just the right person. A lot of observers said, “OMG! The perfect guy for the position is the guy who has the position!”
But, as the NCBA is often more than willing to do, they took their time, talked with a lot of people and worked hard at making the right decision. Meanwhile, Frazier kept things going. Quietly, smoothly, no big fuss. He had been with the NCBA since before it was the NCBA. He knew all the ins and outs, the ups and downs, the rights and lefts; all the things that help an organization run well.
And then…the NCBA made a great decision. “Hey,” they said, “Let’s let Kendal do it!”
So they got out their #2 pencil and erased the word ‘interim’ from Frazier’s title, something that had been just penciled in for far too long. Just a few weeks ago, they finally chiseled ‘Kendal Frazier, Chief Executive Officer, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’ in stone. The position was now permanent. He has occupancy of the big office and the business cards to prove it.
While new blood can bring interesting and new ideas, the steadying influence of an old hand is usually the best way forward and that’s what the NCBA will get with Frazier. Immediately after the announcement, he started the tour of the cattle industry’s equivalent of late night talk shows. Instead of talking with Colbert and Fallon, though, it has been a series of interviews with ag radio hosts and ag publication editors.
Before Frazier got too deeply involved and said everything he had to say to every person with a notepad or mic, I asked Chase Adams, NCBA’s PR guy, if he could help me put a few questions in front of him. Here are his responses:
Q. First, congratulations on your recent appointment to the CEO’s office at NCBA. You’ve served in a lot of capacities there over the years. How have those experiences helped you prepare for your current duties?
A. I’ve had the opportunity to work in state and national cattle industry associations in a variety of roles. I’ve watched how successful associations are managed for maximum performance and accomplishment. I understand the unique aspects of associations including the important relationships between staff and volunteer leaders. Associations are dependent on a strong trust bond between members and stakeholders, the volunteer leaders and staff. I know as I take this position at NCBA that we have the right staff, a great partnership with state organizations and the strong support of our grassroots membership to push the priorities of cattle producers forward.
Q. It seems every year the NCBA is face with ‘newer, never before faced’ challenges. From your perspective, are they becoming more difficult to manage?
A. Cattlemen and women face a myriad of issues in the consumer marketplace and in Washington D.C. Social media and speed of communications has given a new voice to activists and changed how quickly potential issues can reach consumers. The checkoff-funded Issues Management program must continue to be nimble and quick to adapt to a changing communications environment. Our effective and rapid response to the International Agency for Research on Cancer report on red meat last October is a great example of the importance of this work.
We are also facing increased regulation and the deterioration of private property rights from Washington D.C. NCBA and its affiliates have responded by putting more resources into our combined efforts through our Washington D.C. office. The never-ending growth of government and regulations coming out of Washington D.C. requires that we fortify our ability to protect cattlemen from unnecessary regulation and increased costs of raising beef. In addition, NCBA is placing more emphasis on opening access to U.S. beef in overseas markets. Beef exports are critical to the growth and prosperity of the U.S. beef industry.
Q. Let’s talk about those challenges. Looking at a list of issues the NCBA has wrestled with recently, which have been well-earned victories?
A. In the last 8 months we have successfully protected beef from the ill-advised report from the International Association for Research on Cancer; secured several big “wins” in the Omnibus appropriations bill passed by Congress last December including the repeal of Country-of-Origin Labeling which prevented massive retaliatory tariffs from Canada and Mexico, made permanent section 179 depreciation at $500,000 in the U.S. tax code; passed Presidential Trade Promotion Authority which paves the way for Congressional approval of the Trans Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement and USDA released the final Dietary Guidelines including red meat and beef as part of a well-balanced diet. In addition, we had a successful Cattle Industry Convention in San Diego with over 7,000 cattlemen attending the largest trade show we’ve ever held. There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about the future of the beef industry and NCBA is right there with our members and stakeholders.
Q. And which have been disappointing losses?
A. We were disappointed that Congress didn’t require EPA to withdraw the proposed WOTUS rule in the Omnibus Appropriations legislation or through standalone legislation. Their failure to act forces cattlemen and taxpayers nationwide to continue litigation through their states and individual producer groups like NCBA. With 50 industry groups and over 30 states involved in litigation challenging the WOTUS rule, it should be clear to Congress and the administration that this rule is flawed. Fighting this rule remains a top priority for NCBA, our members and state affiliates.
Q. You said one of the NCBA’s strategic initiatives in the coming years is to help drive beef exports. At the risk of sounding overly simplistic, there seems to be two avenues: the TPP and everything else. Where do you see the greatest opportunity for growth and what groups will be your partners in the effort?
A. Passage of the Trans Pacific Partnership is the number one grassroots priority this year. With passage of the Australia-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement in early 2015, Australia now has a 10 percent tax advantage over the U.S. on beef exports into Japan. This tax disadvantage makes U.S. beef less competitive in Japan compared to Australian beef and has already cost U.S. beef producers over $100 million in lost sales. Those losses will only grow as the Japanese tax rate for Australian beef continues to decrease, eroding U.S. market share.
We must pass TPP and level the playing field. Most mainstream agricultural groups support and complement our efforts to pass the TPP without delay. While we have not always agreed with this administration, and their rampant regulatory agenda remains a concern, trade has been an area where we have been able to work with the President through the U.S. Trade Representative to achieve a goal that will benefit all cattle producers. We will continue to work with the administration and Congress to pass TPP Now. You can find more information on the benefits to U.S. beef trade through the TPP at www.TPPNow.com
Q. Every new CEO brings a personal list of hot buttons, a rearrangement of existing issues and possibly a few new ones. As you review all the things that effect the cattle business as well as those that are just over the horizon, what’s really hot and what’s not?
A. What’s hot is protecting private property rights for cattlemen, expanding access to U.S. beef in foreign markets, increasing trust in U.S. beef production and ensuring that consumers fully understand the importance of beef’s role in their diets. The millennial generation is asking more questions about how beef is raised and wondering how beef fits in their diets. These are the areas I am going to focus on to ensure we preserve the future for the next generation of cattlemen and women.
Q. And now, the floor is yours. Thousands of your constituents read Cattlenetwork. What would you like to say to them?
A. It is a privilege to serve cattlemen and women. I have spent my career working with and for beef producers, so I am well versed in the many challenges and exciting opportunities for our industry. I’m looking forward to working with NCBA’s leadership, membership, staff, state affiliates, state beef councils and other stakeholders and industry related organizations. Cattlemen may not always agree on everything but we must work together to ensure a prosperous future for the industry.