CBB Chairman: a Bit of a Change

US - Change is all around us, inevitable and often a bit scary. But it’s what you do with change that matters ... you can see it as a barrier or an amazing opportunity.
calendar icon 12 February 2008
clock icon 5 minute read

This February, the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) elected a new chairman who embraces change and sees it as a stepping stone to greater things to come. Meet Dave Bateman who says, “The only people that like change are wet babies and they cry about it.”

A fourth-generation cattleman from Oregon, Ill., Dave has faced adversity and change both in his home and professional life.

The farm has been in the family since 1896. The original family farm is located near Elburn in Kane County, which was at the time a premier cattle-raising county only 50 miles from the Union Stockyards in Chicago. With Dave’s father, his father, and father before that all in the cattle business, Dave naturally grew up working with cattle. He soon ventured out on his own in partnership with a mentor, rented a farm and the two of them joined in a feeding operation with between 600 to 900 cattle per year in the late ‘70s.

But just as farm and city have collided, farms have consolidated, and thus the markets changed, forcing Dave and his family to adapt to a new way of operating their cattle operation.

In the years leading up to the sale of the farm, Dave went to work with his landlords and succeeded in growing a 200-acre row crop farm to 1,400 acres while feeding approximately 500 head per year.

In 1995, their lives began to change even more. Dave’s wife, Carol, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and in 1998, after developers bought the rented farm where they lived, they moved into town. The rationale was “it is easier to move two people than an entire farm.” That same year, Dave returned to Judson College to pursue “transferable job skills” and received his bachelor’s degree in leadership and management. Then in 2004, the bulk of the family farm was sold to a gravel company.

With the passing of his mother in 2006, Dave’s brother Rowland decided to move back to the 100+ year-old “home place” and began a 15-head cattle operation with the help of his son, Kent. Kent now works at the local co-op, but throughout high school and following years, Kent had worked with Dave. “Now our 5th generation, I like to think I’ve helped train and encourage Kent in this business. His boys Ryan and Travis, with 4-H calves, now represent the 6th generation.”

Knowing the family farm was in good hands, and being located nearer the city, Dave changed his employment status to what he refers to as “semi-retired,” but meanwhile still retains 40-acres of the original farm and owns 200-head of cattle that are custom fed for him.

In his spare time, Dave answered a call to ministry and is an intentional interim pastor at a church in Belvidere, Ill. He has had church consulting schooling, mediation conflict training and is also a trained transitional minister. His “job” is to examine the history of a church, the sources of conflict and ways to resolve it, and to try to find ways to plan a better future for tomorrow so mistakes of the past aren’t repeated.

“Because of my continued education, I find many similarities in my dual role in life. As we look at the beef industry, we are tied to some traditions and reluctant to change. The transition from what we’ve always been and done to some new ways of thinking are equally difficult,” Dave says. “Part of what I do is help people see what CAN be.”

As not only a life-long industry volunteer, but also now in his role as CBB Chairman, Dave says, “I believe in what we do, I believe in our product, I believe in what the industry stands for, I believe in the history from which we come, and I believe that there’s a future for us as we adapt to a changing society. I hope to be a catalyst to help that change move in a positive direction.”

Change is an evolving process. Dave says beef producers need to continue to work with industry partners to stretch the limit of dollars the checkoff has in order to become the greatest influence possible in the marketplace. “We also need to work very diligently toward developing new products to help transition into the next generation of consumers. In the short term, we’ll be faced with difficult decisions as an industry because of shrinking dollars – which means we need to recognize we can’t be all things to all people.”

As a Beef Board leader looking ahead, Dave says he hopes he can encourage more participation in the planning process with more producer involvement and producer direction. “It’s imperative that producers claim ownership of checkoff-funded programs. Every voice can be heard – you can make a difference and influence the direction of the industry. It only requires involvement and commitment.”

Since his nomination to the CBB by beef organizations in Illinois and his appointment by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture in 2000, Dave has served in various leadership positions in agricultural industries, beginning as a director of county affiliate organizations and continuing through state and national service on committees, committee chairmanships and officer positions and most recently as CBB vice chairman. Among others, Dave is a past president of the Kane County Corn Growers Association, the DeKalb/Kane Cattlemen’s Association, the Illinois Beef Association and is a long-time member of the Illinois Livestock Advisory Board of Commissioners.

Dave and Carol have two daughters: Denyse, who with husband Don Christensen, have three children Kyle, Katie and Sam; and Christine, who with husband Tim Carey, have a son Gavin.

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 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.

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