Brett Morris is a third generation Oklahoma rancher. He's a dairy farmer, actually, who also runs a cow/calf and stocker operation just a few miles southwest of Norman. "My granddad got into the dairy business in the 1940s," he said. "He was always in beef. When dad grew up, he went into business with him. Granddad retired in the '80s and I joined my father."
His start might have been a little rockier than most. When I asked him about his education, he laughed and said, "When I was about 2 years old, I developed a very high fever that lasted for several days. The doctors said I would probably be mentally handicapped. I'm not sure they weren’t right. I do know that I went to the University of Hard Knocks, though."
So Oklahoma can boast distinguished graduates of major colleges that include UO, OSU and the U. of HK.
Like most successful farming businesses, it's diversified, including 600 acres of alfalfa, wheat and grassland, 50 registered Holsteins for milking, 60 beef cows, and 40 stocker calves. With his father, Morris also runs Washita Fertilizer company.
A family man, he and his wife, Jackie, have four children. His oldest daughter, Alicia, teaches and his son, Brian, works for Eskimo Joe's, a local sports bar. His daughter, Cami, is working on a burgeoning career in photography and still at home is daughter Makayla.
He's serving his second term on the Cattlemen's Beef Board (CBB), earning his initial appointment by a lot of hard work for various industry organizations. He has served as chairman of the Oklahoma Dairy Commission and vice chairman of the Oklahoma Johne's Advisory Committee, and as chairman and vice chairman of the Oklahoma Beef Council. He's been a district voting delegate to Dairy Farmer's of America since 1998.
Morris' impressive resume of service includes a term as president of the Oklahoma Holstein Association. He was active in the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, a member of the Oklahoma Farmers and Ranchers Mutual Insurance Company, National Farmers Union, Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association, Holstein Association of America, and Oklahoma Holstein Association.
All of that translates to a huge and varied skill set that he brings to CBB where he previously served on the Joint Retail Committee as a representative for the Federation of State Beef Councils. Today, he's the Board's Vice chair and a member of the Operating Committee. He also chairs the Executive Committee.
"I'm excited about what we're doing at CBB," he said. "We're getting greater mileage out of our limited dollars by using more social media. We're looking at some great growth opportunities in the export business. That $1 checkoff investment is bringing back $11.20.
"I'm surprised at the number of people who don't understand how the checkoff works," he told me. "I've spent a lot of time with people explaining how it works. That dollar is split 50/50 between the state and the national organizations. It does not go to the NCBA. Half of it stays home where it was generated.
"The CBB is all about the checkoff," he explained. "It's audited internally and externally, as well as by USDA, so there is a lot of oversight. We're research-based and consumer-focused. We're a frugal group that uses the money very carefully."
Talking about the Executive Committee, he said, "We're working harder to keep everyone up-to-date on what we're doing and the issues we're facing; it's a matter of transparency."
You can learn more about Morris and the CBB leadership team at MyBeefCheckoff.com.