The South Dakota Beef Industry Council brought well-known beef advocate Ryan Goodman to South Dakota State University Nov. 15-16, 2018 to discuss the importance of advocacy in today’s agriculture. Goodman, Director, Grassroots Advocacy and Spokesperson Development, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), a contractor to the beef checkoff, leads the Masters of Beef Advocacy (MBA) program.
Funded by the Beef Checkoff and administered by NCBA, the Masters of Beef Advocacy (MBA) program is offered to members of the beef community who wish to be more active advocates for the beef industry. The MBA program begins with an online course to help advocates better understand concerns of consumers and helps them to be more confident when answering questions about beef and how cattle are raised. The MBA program then equips and engages advocates through resources and training opportunities. Applications for the program are available at beef.org/MBA
Goodman provided an advocacy and spokesperson presentation to SDSU students passionate about agriculture and who want to develop advocacy skills. Approximately 120 students, as well as several SDSU faculty, attended the evening session.
“The future of the beef industry and agriculture in general revolves around important conversations with consumers and our future leaders’ abilities to connect and understand them. Consumers want to know where their food comes from and have questions on modern production practices,” said Goodman. He explained it’s important the industry share its story but it’s just as important to find a way to connect with the consumer first. “Finding common ground and connecting to consumers helps with communication efforts,” he said. “Once connection has taken place and consumer comfort has been established, doors open and we are able to help discuss more in-depth questions about agriculture, tell our story and help dispel misinformation.” Agriculture has a positive story to tell, but Goodman says “we must build relationships first to be able share it meaningfully.”
The next morning Goodman offered a more in-depth media training to some of the university’s student leadership who want to advance their skills on how to advocate for beef farmers and ranchers and engage in food dialogues with consumers as well as the media. This select group of students volunteered to attend the training, where they received tools and resources that allowed them to better their communication and advocacy efforts with consumers.
Suzy Geppert, Executive Director of the South Dakota Beef Industry Council, was excited about the opportunity to bring Goodman to the state. “We are always looking for ways to engage our future beef leaders and we felt this was a great way to do that,” she said. “Beef demand starts with consumers, and we want them to be comfortable asking questions. We also want our beef leaders, farmers and ranchers to feel confident in their ability to answer them.”
Geppert explained the beef industry’s size and scope make advocacy a critical endeavor. “It takes all elements to make it thrive, from the farmer and rancher to the livestock auction markets to the feedlots, packers, retailers and consumers,” she said. “The Masters of Beef Advocacy program offers insight and guidance on navigating all of these elements and getting the right information to our consumers.”