It was the aftermath of the Civil War that drove the Looney family to Texas. In the late 1870s, they migrated from Mississippi to Bee County about an hour and a half south of San Antonio. Now, five generations later, Paul Looney is still running the family farm. A lifelong cow-calf producer, he also raises seedstock and a family of future ranchers.
“We might have a fifth and sixth generation coming along here, he said. His son, Hank, a principal at the local high school, is also doing some cow-calf business and Looney has two grandchildren waiting in the wings.
“Can’t tell if my grandchildren will continue,” he said, “they’re too young to make that decision but. . .” He let that comment trail off but I knew where he was going. The Looney’s have been in the cattle business for over 130 years.
The South Texas area where he ranches has been hit hard by the drought. “It started in 2005 and we started to feel it in 2006,” he said. “We’ve had to reduce our herd size; we’ve cut back by about 90 percent and just retain a small Limousin seed herd now.”
Expressing an optimism in the face of a disastrous few years that’s almost genetic among Texas cattle ranchers, he said, “We plan to start again if the weather turns. We’ve finally had some moisture this year.”
Like most Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) members, he takes his civic duties seriously. He’s been active as a local director of the Texas Farm Bureau, an Executive Committee member of ICA-Texas, and a member of the U.S. Cattlemen's Association and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. He’s an elder in the First Presbyterian Church, a member of the Beeville Rotary, serves on the board for the Bee County Tax Appraisal District, and is a past board member for American Red Brangus.
What’s that old saying? “If you want something done, ask a busy man.”
Looney was nominated to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board in 2011 by the Independent Cattlemen's Association of Texas. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced his appointment in December of that year and he attended his first meeting two months later in Nashville.
“I like working with the CBB,” he said. “I get to meet cattlemen from all over the country. We have similar problems and we can get together and talk about them. Getting to know the CBB staff and how hard they work has been a pleasure, too. They are an outstanding group of people.”
Looney serves on the Convenience Committee which is charged with finding ways to present beef products in a more convenient and easy-to-use form. “We’re looking at ways to make beef easier for the consumer – making more snack foods, for instance. We’ve worked with things like jerky and the freeze/thaw process at home. We know there are a lot of working moms and dads that want more convenience. If we can help them, they’ll eat more beef.”
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