Jim McCann wants cattlemen to have a seat at the table — and he wants beef to be the main course.
The Miller, Mo., backgrounder has ridden a long, sometimes steep, trail to become president of the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association. A Texas native, he spent better than 25 years raising cattle in Arizona before moving to Lawrence County about a decade ago.
Issues facing cattlemen in the Southwest convinced him to become involved in Arizona farm and beef organizations and that philosophy traveled with him to Missouri.
“We have got to get across to folks that, if they put us out of business, there’s going to be a whole lotta hungry people in the world,” McCann asserts.
Beef producers, he says, operate in a landscape where multiple agendas threaten both their business and their way of life.
“It really has become a ‘them against us’ situation,” McCann remarks. “For the most part, these are not bad people — they’re just ignorant about agriculture and we’ve allowed the anti-agriculture groups to fill in the blanks for them.”
on multiple fronts
In retrospect, he adds, the beef industry should have been far more proactive 30-40 years ago. Still, working hard today beats the heck out of putting it off until tomorrow, McCann says, noting that the industry needs to approach the challenges on multiple fronts.
“We have to work legislatively, we have to partner with other segments of agriculture, we have to inform and educate the public and — maybe most of all — we have to work with young people because they are the future,” he says.
MCA’s Cowboys on the Capitol program hits the statutory side head-on. Every week the state legislature is in session, a group of Missouri Cattlemen’s Association members are in Jeff City lobbying for or against certain bills, serving as an informational resource to lawmakers and generally making their presence known.
“It’s making a difference — they pay attention to what we say,” McCann emphasizes.
Key legislative priorities include passage of a Farming Rights Amendment, a state beef checkoff referendum, and issues that pick producers pocketbooks — from making hauling limits cohesive with neighboring states to taxes, trichomoniasis and traceability.
“These are all issues that affect every Missouri cattleman every day,” McCann says. “Whether it’s working to put a cap on property tax assessment increases on farm and ranch land or making sure that Animal Disease Traceability information is neither available nor accessible to anyone who wants it.
“These are the kinds of things MCA tracks and works on for the benefit of all of the state’s cattle producers.”
Regarding the checkoff, McCann explains that current law — written in the 1980s — prohibits a state beef checkoff. The statute, he says, was originally written to protect producers from inadvertently being hit with two checkoffs at the same time.
A bill to repeal the statute, and therefore allowing producers to vote on a checkoff, sailed through the State Senate but bogged down in the House.
“All we are asking is to allow producers to vote for themselves,” McCann explains. “It’s their industry, their money, their investment — they should be the ones who decide.”
McCann is also focused on the much-discussed Farming Rights Amendment, which he says will help protect Missouri farm and ranch families from out-of-state anti-agriculture groups that have targeted the state in the past.
But it’s not all about bills and statutes for McCann and the organization he represents. In the southwest and other regions, local and county groups are actively promoting beef with wide-ranging activities from cooking burgers for community gatherings to supporting youth programs.
In fact, if you want to see Jim McCann get down-right enthusiastic, just bring up young people. Right now, he’s particularly excited about a new MCA youth affiliate at Missouri State University.
“These are sharp, sharp kids,” he says. “They’re excited to be part of the beef industry and they can play such an important role — their enthusiasm is contagious.”
Although promoting beef may seem like McCann’s full-time job, raising beef is the family business.
A family-held LLC, Shining Cross Farm backgrounds steers, taking them to 9-weights on fescue-based pastures and grain supplementation, in addition to running a small cowherd.
McCann, his wife, Linda, and their children, hold regular management meetings to make business decisions.
The family includes sons Travis and Jason — who has also served as president of MCA — and daughter Monica Chute.
Despite all of the challenges facing his own family and other beef producers, McCann is optimistic but one thing he would like to see is broader cattleman involvement.
“MCA has a great group of members and professional staff,” he says. “The things they work so hard on benefit all Missouri cattlemen — members or not.
“That’s okay. That’s just the way it is but the bad part of not getting more cattle producers involved doesn’t have a thing to do with dues or membership numbers — it’s a matter of the industry missing out on all the talent, knowledge and ability that’s out there — people who could make a difference.”
McCann stresses that there’s a place for everyone in the organization. And, he says, disagreement on this issue or that should not become a barrier.
“We don’t want a bunch of people who agree on everything,” he explains. “We want healthy, respectful debate. We want fresh ideas and we want people who question things — that’s how we get better.
“There is an untapped power of Missouri cattlemen. Heck, I know there are people out there who could do this job better than me.”
That may or may not be true but anyone who has stood still long enough to hear Jim McCann’s beef message would wonder if it’s possible to find anyone more dedicated to the task.