Fanning Family

Meyer Family

 

 Q&A with Tom Fanning, Chairman and

Angie Meyer, Vice Chairman

Tell us a little about your operation. 

Tom: My family and I have a cow/calf herd and a stocker cattle operation. I also manage Buffalo Feeders, a 30,000-head custom cattle feeding operation.  My children will be the fourth generation running cattle, but we have bought our own place and built it from scratch. My wife and I grew up here. After serving as a U.S. Army infantry captain and Army Ranger, as well as working for Cargill in the Texas Panhandle, we moved back here 16 years ago to raise our family where we grew up.

Angie: Our family commitment and dedication is similar, but I took a different path to the industry. I grew up just 10 miles north of our dairy operation, although I did not grow up in Ag. No 4H, no FFA involvement; essentially, I was a city kid.

But my husband and I are third generation dairy farmers; we own and operate M6 Dairy Farm, LLC.  We began milking 60 head of Registered Holstein cows, and 29 years and four kids later we milk 180 cows (twice a day) with our son and daughter-in-law.

What is a typical day like for you?

Angie: A typical day for me begins in the barn at 4 a.m.  Of course, it does not end when the milking is completed. I then go to my off-the-farm job as a medical biller in Oklahoma City, about a 40-minute drive. I then return to the barn to help finish the evening chores and finally off to maintain my household and have supper with my husband.

Tom: There is no typical day, whether it’s at the feedyard I manage or at our family stocker and cow-calf operation. Each day is a new opportunity in the cattle business. I will typically talk with 20 to 30 customers per day, located from Florida to Chicago to almost every Southern Plains state, about the markets, the weather, grain prices, exports, and family. In addition to ensuring that a wholesome and nutritious ration is produced and delivered to the cattle every day, we are looking after the health and welfare of all the cattle in our care.

There has been a suggestion that the Beef Checkoff only supports “Big Ag.”  How do your respond to this?

Tom: I don’t know what the definition of “Big Ag” is supposed to be. What I do know, though, is what I was taught by my grandfather, who farmed 160 acres, had a few hundred chickens and a herd of some great Angus cows, and raised eight children. He said that every day you thank God for the opportunity to live and work in an industry where we are free to make decisions and have opportunity around every corner to do better today than we did yesterday.

It is the American Dream to improve and grow. It should not be a negative label for smart producers who have the foresight and work ethic to excel and achieve in the agricultural field. I work with hundreds of small to medium size independent producers from around the country who are proud to be a part of the Beef community.

Angie:  We are a family dairy. The average family dairy is 250 head; we have 180. Like Tom, I have no definition of “Big Ag.” The Beef checkoff promotes beef the same if your family farm has 10 head or 10,000 head. 

As members of the Oklahoma Beef Council what are some of the steps you have taken to assure producers’ dollars are cared for and invested well by the Oklahoma Beef Council?

Tom: We have worked hard to put steps in place to protect the integrity of the beef checkoff. I believe the strongest step we have taken is to contract all accounting services to a third-party accounting firm with circulating accountants and a five-step review process that includes the accounting firm, staff and board. We also continue to be audited annually. To learn more visit our website

Angie: To assure a responsible and effective checkoff investment we build our programs in Oklahoma around the latest consumer market research. We don’t make decision on gut, but on what the market research is telling us.  I encourage consumers to visit www.oklabeef.org to view our latest program highlights. 

We also recognize that Oklahoma represents only 1.2% of the Oklahoma population. So, we invest some state dollars in national and international programs. Between Tom and my families, for instance, we have seven millennial children, so we understand the importance of outreach to this important generation. To reach them, we must be mobile and focus on digital marketing at both the state and national level. 

I am proud of the work the Oklahoma Beef Council has done to reach out to millennials in high population areas like California and New York. For instance, in just five weeks, through a campaign funded by the Oklahoma Beef Council, we drove more than 40,000 consumers to the Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner website. As a member of the checkoff’s national Joint Innovation Committee, I am so excited about the new relaunch of the Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner brand and encourage producers to visit the website and see how we are reaching out to consumers in 2017. 

Tom: Like Angie, I believe it’s important to assure a valuable checkoff investment. I serve on the Checkoff’s Joint Global Growth Committee, and have witnessed firsthand the huge gains U.S. Beef has made in exports. The opportunity to see U.S. Beef in China for the first time in years and to see South Korea consumers embrace U.S. Beef because of its taste and wholesomeness are just a couple of examples of the results of the work done by the committee and many others.

It’s important to know that most of the world lives outside of the United States. Once those consumers have the opportunity to experience our Beef, they want more of it. That improves the value of the carcass and the animal, to the benefit of the beef producer.

What’s program does the Oklahoma Beef Council fund that you believe is the most impactful locally?

Angie:  Since my “daytime” job is within the medical field, I believe our outreach with physicians is highly important.  We have done some innovative work over the years.  Knowing the issues arising from the use of antibiotics in the livestock industry, we brought in a top expert to address the myths and facts of antibiotic use in food animals.  Additionally, we have a wonderful story to tell about how we raise beef and the important role beef can play in a healthy diet.  We do a lot of work with dietitians helping to education them about the science of beef nutrition and beef production and I think this key as they are the most influential group of nutrition professionals in the country. 

Tom:  I believe the Oklahoma Beef Quality Summit funded by us is by far one of our best programs.   Using the National Beef Quality Audit as a base, summit attendees from ranchers to processors evaluate live cattle in an effort to predict quality and yield then follow the cattle through the harvest and grading process. The classes are predominantly cattle producers but we are fortunate to also have individuals from major national retailers and foodservice companies that also come.  The evaluation across the board are overwhelming positive and we frequently hear that is best educational event they have attended.  My other personal favorite is the outreach we do with Oklahoma FFA and the Masters of Beef Advocacy Program.  It’s so important that we empower our agriculture youth to stand up for agriculture and beef industry. 

How do you explain the importance of the impact of the Beef Checkoff on producer’s bottom line?

Angie: The beef checkoff is the perfect tool to have for beef promotion and research. It allows me to continue to do what I love, knowing there is a great program that is working for me and all beef producers.

Tom: Research shows that for every checkoff $1 we spend the value returned is $11.20. There is no other investment opportunity that I know of that equals these results. I do not budget for Research or Promotion on my farm or at my feedyard, so the Beef Council’s programs are my voice, reaching far more consumers and building Beef demand in places that I would never go.

Finally, where can producers learn more about how the beef checkoff works? 

Angie: For an overall view of the Beef Checkoff Program at the national level, I would encourage producers to visit mybeefcheckoff.com. Also, I would once again encourage producers to visit our website at oklabeef.org for our Oklahoma Beef Council Highlights. There is quite a bit of misinformation out there right now, so we also have a Mythbuster section on our website.

Tom: I encourage all Oklahoma beef producers to visit www.oklabeef.org. It’s where they can find the facts about what is happening with the beef checkoff in their state.