Industry Leadership Award

In 2010, the Cattle Feeders Hall of Fame initiated the Industry Leadsership Award to honor contributions by non-cattle-feeders to the industry. The rich history of cattle feeders would not be complete without recognizing numerous individuals who have been instrumental in ensuring the success and growth of the industry outside the feedyard. From educators and scientists to advocates and policy makers, the contributions by these men and women have shaped modern beef production.

John Lacey was active in leadership roles during times of great challenge for the cattle industry.

John Lacey: A legacy of leadershipNo ranch or cattle business can operate as an island, a fact John Lacey recognized long before many of his contemporaries. That’s one of the reasons he devoted so much of his time over the years to various cattle-industry organizations.

For that dedication to America’s cattle industry, Lacey was recognized last month by the Cattle Feeders Hall of Fame as the recipient of the Industry Leadership Award at a ceremony in Denver, Colo. 

“This is a great honor,” Lacey says. “My father always encouraged me to give something back to the industry and to support the cattle industry in any way I can.”

Lacey was involved in leadership roles on a national level during some turbulent times for the cattle industry. In 1990, he was president of the National Cattlemen’s Association, a time when the group was under financial stress.

“That year became a good year for our industry,” Lacey says. “Fed cattle topped $80 per hundredweight, and we were able to turn around NCA’s financial woes.”

Lacey was known to have strong opinions and to be an advocate for cattlemen. He boldly told President George H.W. Bush, “Your wetlands initiative is unacceptable to millions of farmers and ranchers.”

By the mid-1990s, an industry long-range plan was developed and promoted, encouraging the industry to “speak with one voice.” The result was the merger of the National Cattlemen’s Association and the National Live Stock and Meat Board/Beef Industry Council into the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association in 1996. Lacey’s leadership, insight and credibility among grass-roots producers became a key component to the successful merger, and he was elected to serve as the first president of that new organization, making
him the only person to serve as both NCA and NCBA president.

“There were a lot of challenges that year,” Lacey recalls. “The merger was not without its detractors, but I believe it has proven over time to be the right decision for our industry.”

During his year as president of the newly formed NCBA, Lacey traveled to many cattlemen’s meetings at the grass-roots level to gather support for the new, combined organization. “Failure was not an option,” he later told a reporter. “You do have to put a few things on the line for something like this to be successful. My goal was to stay focused, unify (members) and justify the merger.”

Prior to the merger, Lacey also served as
a National Livestock and Meat Board director and a representative of the Federation of State Beef Councils on the Beef Promotion Operating Committee.

As well-known as Lacey is for his industry leadership roles, he’s been equally successful as a rancher and family man. Lacey Livestock is the family business operated by John and his wife Dee, and their son Mark, his wife Brenda and their daughters Molly and Katie. John also has a daughter and son-in-law who ranch on the big island of Hawaii. The Lacey family also partners with David Wood in a ranching operation called Centennial Livestock.

The Lacey family has been ranching in California since 1870. John graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in animal science and returned from duty with the U.S. Marine Corps to become a ranching partner with his father. Lacey Livestock is primarily a cow-calf operation, but it is also involved in a partnership with Harris Ranch Company on a large stocker operation.

In 2009, Lacey Livestock was presented the Hereford Industry Innovator Award by the American Hereford Association during the National Western Stock Show’s Hereford Pen and Carload Bull Show in Denver.

“I’ve had many opportunities to travel and meet a lot of people in our industry,” Lacey says. “I’m proud of our heritage and proud of the product we produce.”

Lacey says he hopes his work for the cattle industry has helped provide greater opportunities for his family and all agriculture families to pass on their traditions to future generations.