This month, the beef checkoff’s Masters of Beef Advocacy (MBA) program, reached 10,000 graduates! This group of beef and dairy producers – along with chefs, teachers, doctors, dietitians and others in the beef community – has stepped up and are leading the way in advocating for the industry and all of agriculture. After completing the program, MBA grads are equipped to have engaging conversations with consumers, both online and in person, and are encouraged to participate in advocacy campaigns. The MBA program was started in March 2009.
The Top of the Class program, which is a next-level training program for advocates wanting to strengthen their advocacy skills was added in 2014. MBA Top of the Class graduates are regularly tapped for media interviews, speaking engagements and other advocacy opportunities on the national level. The Top of the Class program has trained 24 graduates to date and is accepting applications for the next session, to be held May 23-24, 2017.
Building on the initial success of the program, which celebrated 5,000 graduates in the first five years, the checkoff developed and released a brand new set of lessons in 2015. Since the launch of MBA 2.0 the graduation rate has accelerated to approximately 1,500 graduates per year. To accompany the new courses, MBA program staff developed an interactive “Mobile Conversation Guide” app for iPhone and Android in 2016, giving MBA graduates access to information from the courses at their fingertips.
From the Mouths of MBA Grads
Terryn Drieling, rancher, blogger and avid beef advocate from Nebraska, says, “I was introduced to the MBA program when it was brand new back in early 2009 and completed the Top of the Class program in 2015. The MBA program served as a launching pad for my blog and advocacy efforts, and the Top of the Class helped me feel even more comfortable sharing my story and the story of beef. In fact, I found so much value in the programs that I have recently started recruiting fellow beef community members to the MBA program.”
Adam Hegsted, James Beard Award-nominated chef who runs three restaurants in Spokane, Washington, says, “I valued being able to learn all aspects of the beef cycle, from genetics, farming, sustainability, nutritional info and everything in between, all the way to the plate. I found it very valuable to be able to see the whole spectrum and make decisions based on the in-depth knowledge and facts that are available.”
MBA Grads at Work
Over the past few years, MBA graduates have had the opportunity to put their skills to use in a variety of ways, ranging from providing a rancher’s perspective for a media interview or magazine article to promoting one of numerous campaigns developed by MBA program staff. Most recently, graduates participated in the Food Waste Challenge, which sought to bring awareness to how food waste affects sustainability while highlighting beef’s efficiencies. Additionally, graduates shared resources and information regarding the Veterinary Feed Directive in order to provide clarity to an inquiring consumer base.
Joan Ruskamp, beef producer from Nebraska and Top of the Class program grad, participated in the New York Times’ Food for Tomorrow conference, which featured speakers such as Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman and Tom Colicchio. Ruskamp was part of a producer panel that offered an up-close look at how the ag community is continuously improving food production.
If you are a beef community member who wants to complete the MBA program, you can enroll online at www.beef.org/MBA. MBA grads who wish to take their advocacy to the next level can apply to the Top of the Class program by contacting Brandi Buzzard Frobose at firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications are due April 7.
For more information about your beef checkoff investment, visit MyBeefCheckoff.com.
UNDERSTANDING THE BEEF CHECKOFF PROGRAM
The Beef Checkoff Program was established as part of the 1985 Farm Bill. The checkoff assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products. States may retain up to 50 cents on the dollar and forward the other 50 cents per head to the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board, which administers the national checkoff program, subject to USDA approval.