14 Mar Career Spotlight: Agriculture Associations
Chances of tuning in to agriculture-related media programs these days and hearing talk of advocacy are high. As we highlighted in a previous post, legislative concerns are on the forefronts of many producers’ minds, not to mention complex international trade agreements, shifting consumer demand, and increased calls for transparency from the farm and ranch level. These issues and more aren’t new, and for generations agriculture associations and trade groups have played an important role in the decisions made in Washington, D.C. and in state capitols around the country.
We would like to highlight a few of the agricultural associations and trade groups in the United States who count farmers and ranchers as their members.
The big name in cattle production is the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). Founded in 1898 as the National Live Stock Growers Association, NCBA has over 28,000 individual members and additional allied and associate members. With offices in Denver and Washington, D.C., the association is involved in numerous policy, research, and trade endeavors. It manages the beef checkoff program through its Federation of State Beef Councils Division. Legislative staff lobby Congress and keep members informed of USDA policy and changes to the farm bill. It encourages environmental and civic responsibility through programs such as the Environmental Stewardship Award and youth leadership programs. Students have several internship opportunities available, and NCBA even produces its own magazine and a television show called Cattlemen to Cattlemen.
In addition to beef cattle, the dairy industry also has several organizations representing its animals and products. Check out our blog on dairy production managers to learn more.
SHEEP AND GOATS
Cattle is not the only species of livestock dotting the pastures of America. Sheep and goats provide meat, dairy products, wool, and mohair, and the Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers Association (TSGRA) is the oldest organization in the U.S. dealing with those species. Like other regional livestock organizations (the most well-known perhaps being the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association), the TSGRA was formed to thwart the theft of livestock and other property. Leaders of the association work with lawmakers and educators to advance industry interests such as predator control, property rights, economic support for products, and trade issues. The association also provides several scholarships each year to students studying agriculture.
The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), headquartered in Urbandale, Iowa with offices in Washington, D.C., is tasked with protecting and promoting the nation’s approximately 60,000 pork producers. The association is concerned with issues facing confined animal feeding operations, food safety, and government regulation. Through media outreach and the publication of resources, the NPPC advocates on behalf of an industry that annually markets over 110 million hogs and supports over half a million jobs. Anyone who has ever tried bacon might agree that NPPC’s members are important to our food supply.
The U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, formed in 1947 and headquartered in Tucker, Georgia, serves members in production and processing of chickens, turkeys, eggs, and ducks. At the association’s founding, a serious problem of the day was how to safely transport live chickens by train, hence the predecessor organization known as the Southern Poultry and Egg Shippers Association. Today, although the group still deals with transportation and safety issues, their scope goes far beyond watering chicks on trains. Funding for educational and industry promotion programs is a key mission of the organization, with over $2.9 million allocated in fiscal 2016. Additionally, the association has the monumental task of organizing and executing the International Production and Processing Expo. AgGrad founder Tim Hammerich attended the show this year and delivered some advice on why attending trade shows is a must for professionals in agriculture.
Recently, AgGrad travelled to San Antonio to attend the Commodity Classic, a massive farm convention and tradeshow held in conjunction with the association meetings for four of the major crops in North America: corn, soybeans, wheat, and sorghum. The National Corn Growers Association, the American Soybean Association, the National Association of Wheat Growers, and the National Sorghum Producers all cover issues too numerous to count in this article, but education, promotion, trade, and policy research are a few.
Planting, maintaining, and harvesting grain takes equipment, so it makes sense that the Commodity Classic also hosts the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. To hear more about our experiences in San Antonio, check here and here.
We often association agriculture with food production, but let us not forget the products that keep us fed and caffeinated. Cotton and coffee are two products we have highlighted before at AgGrad, and both have organizations that represent the growers and processors in these industries.
The National Cotton Council of America advocates on behalf of the entire supply chain to include growers, ginners, warehouses, merchants, millers, and manufacturers. Charges include legislative updates, gin safety, and promotion of cotton products.
Similarly, the National Coffee Association represents the industry “from farm to cup”, educating the public about coffee issues such as health and sustainability. It keeps its members informed through the publication of The Coffee Reporter Weekly.
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
The fruits and vegetables industry faces a host of challenges unique to other segments of agriculture. Harvesting, food safety, labor relations, and transportation logistics are all areas of accountability for those who grow and process fresh produce. The United Fresh Produce Association represents members across the supply chain by supporting food safety and nutrition initiatives, participating in the legislative process, and publishing multiple resources and surveys. The association is headquartered in Washington, D.C.
BRINGING PEOPLE TOGETHER
We could probably do an entire series just on agriculture associations and trade groups. Obviously, there are more interest groups than what we’ve covered here, including the following: transportation, feed, veterinary, wildlife, horticulture, floriculture, seed, financial management, and real estate. All these agriculture association and trade groups have a few things in common. They represent member producers and/or processors, therefore they have a grassroots component to their structure. They stay current on legislative and policy issues emanating from Washington and state capitols. Most have an annual meeting or convention. Finally, they all have a communications arm in the form of publications or other media.
Agriculture associations and trade groups employ people with interests in government relations, communications and public relations, event management, and hard science. If you enjoy constant education and maintaining relationships with people, working for one of these organizations might be a wise career choice. For those who are passionate about agriculture but lack the resources to go into production, working for an association can be an excellent way to stay involved in the industry and help those who grow and maintain our food, fiber, and natural resources.
We’d like to hear from you. Drop us a line and let us know what interests you most about agriculture associations and trade groups. Send us your resume, and if you have any questions about this or any other career profile we have published, please email Logan West at email@example.com.