"It’s gratifying to see the great progress that we’ve made in promoting and enhancing the value of beef for the benefit of American cattle producers.” - Robert Fountain, Jr.
Robert Fountain, Jr., third-generation owner and operator of his family farm, reached the mandatory limit of two consecutive terms with the Cattlemen's Beef Board (CBB) in 2010. He stepped aside for a few years but he was 'recalled' last summer. During the 2015 Cattle Industry Annual Convention, he accepted a second nomination from USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack. As he began another tour of duty, he was elected to the Executive Committee and appointed to the Freedom to Operate Committee where he'll be able to put his previous experience to good use.
"I really enjoyed serving with the CBB and on their Executive Committee during my previous years of service," he said. "We really got involved rolling up our sleeves and working with some great people of various backgrounds in the beef industry as we sought to promote beef. We developed some important strategies that came from checkoff-funded research into the nutritional expectations of non-traditional consumers and outreach to Millennials."
His long service to the beef industry includes 14 years of service on the Georgia Beef Board, and 15 years on the Georgia Farm Bureau state board as a vice president and the Emanuel County Farm Bureau as president. He was also president of the Georgia Cattlemen's Association and is a member of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. It's important experience that will serve the CBB well.
Both sides of his family have been involved in farming for several generations. His grandfather bought the land, which comprises today’s farm operation, in 1911. Located in southeastern Georgia between Macon and Savannah, the farm near Adrian was recognized in 2012 as a Centennial Family Farm. Today, the farm is primarily a commercial cow/calf operation, and includes timber and pecan trees. "We don't row crop anymore," he said. "We changed in the 1980s when we made a decision to emphasize the cattle portion of the business."
His lifelong involvement with cattle is something that gets him excited. "Did you know that most U.S. beef comes from family farms or ranches like mine?" He asked. "That’s part of the message we need to deliver as we reach out to the public about where their food comes from."
He continued talking about the beef industry and the recent negative press coverage created by the Dietary Guideline Advisory Committee's suggestions. "Some messages we hear are often opinions expressed by people with a certain agenda. While we should always to listen to the public's concerns, we must effectively communicate accurate information about our good stewardship practices and the safety and quality of our product.
We produce a quality protein source that is nutrient-dense and good for consumers of all ages. It's one of the best sources of protein available. When we make our dietary decisions, we need to look at all the information rather than just picking the data that supports one group's agenda. A balanced diet is important. We need to keep in mind that research has proven that a balanced diet with meat is recognized as a healthy and nutritionally important choice for American consumers."
His understanding of the checkoff and its role in supporting beef consumption in America and promoting international trade will be his strong suit as he begins his second CBB term. Expressing a strong belief in its impact, he told me, “The checkoff sends a message that beef is a healthy and safe product. Working with groups like the U.S. Meat Export Federation has helped us grow foreign markets.
“Consumers in other countries really want American beef. When it appears on their supermarket shelves, it disappears rapidly. It’s gratifying to see the great progress that we’ve made in promoting and enhancing the value of beef for the benefit of American cattle producers.”
Throughout the first part of the year, Fountain will be working with CBB officers and the other executive committee members in monitoring the progress of checkoff-funded projects. Preparation will begin in the committee meetings at summer conference as CBB, the EC, and the Beef Promotion Operating Committee prepare for budget discussions in September for the 2016 fiscal year. Acknowledging the challenges created by a shrinking herd of recent years, he said, "We're facing the continuing challenge of stretching fewer dollars to make sure we are getting the most effective return for our producers’ checkoff investment."