What does the small town of Burns, Oregon and places like Washington D.C., Denver, Colorado, and Chicago, Illinois have in common? Beef. Youth delegates, passionate about the future of ranching and the beef industry, gathered for an extensive 10-day national tour for young cattlemen.  Participants gained industry and personal networking connections across the nation as well as a renewed enthusiasm for the future of the beef industry.

Week after week you will find Steven Doverspike on his ranch in Burns, Oregon tending acres of farm fields and over 1,700 cow-calf pairs with his two brothers and parents. The family leaves the ranch rarely, usually for a holiday or a short family trip but this year was an exception. Steven was selected as the delegate from Oregon for the 10-day national tour of some of the biggest beef industries in the United States. He was selected through an interview process with the Young Cattlemen’s Association.

Steven was nice enough to sit down with us here at the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association and tell us about his trip through three different states in the beginning of June.

The first stop was in Denver, Colorado where the delegates were debriefed in media orientation training and public speaking. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NBCA) nutritionist discussed how strong broadcasting and social media activities can help push the positive image of the beef industry that is so often overshadowed by extremist organizations. They included useful tips and facts about dealing with the media from interviews to speaking opportunities.

Steven had worked for two years as an assistant yard manager for JBS5 Rivers Cattle Feeders after graduating from Oregon State University in Agricultural Business Management (minor in Crop and Soil sciences) in 2010, which is where the tour went next, the JBS Swift Greeley Plant. Having worked for the company before, Steven said he “was impressed with how thorough the tour was, showing every aspect of the company and what they do.” He concluded that, “it was a great opportunity for education and to further understanding for all the tour participants.”

Next the tour participants traveled to Chicago, Illinois where they toured and listened to lectures by the Vice-President of Human Affairs for McDonald’s in their headquarter offices. Steven discussed how they learned about market trends and how today’s consumer wants to know where their beef is coming from and how it is raised. Although finding themselves not necessarily wanting to pay the price for such visibility, consumers are still eating conventional beef.

The tour then moved to Washington, D.C., where the first day was spent in preparation for their day on Capitol Hill. Steven noted that approximately 75% of the NCBA staff was present for this preparation period and was grateful that they went to such extensive measure to make sure that each of the delegates got a meaningful experience out of the tour. The four big topics at the Nation’s Capital were the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), Waters of the United States (WOTUS), Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the Antiquities Act.

All of these four big topics are currently happening in the state of Oregon. Steven passionately discussed the benefits of TPP, the issues facing Oregonians in regards to wolves and sage grouse, and the current situation we are facing in the Owyhee Canyonlands with the threat of a monument designation on the horizon. Steven said that he got the opportunity to meet two of his four representatives in person and the other two through an assistant. Steven used his time meeting with the Oregon representatives to be an ambassador for Oregon cattle ranching, where he shared firsthand what his family is going through, what will happen to them, their livelihood, and their family business if certain decisions are made in the legislature.

“The ability to have someone who calls that land home to share, really helps it hit home than seeing or reading about it in the news,” Steven said. “It was a great opportunity and a lot of fun to share what I am passionate about.”

Afterwards, the delegates were privy to a debriefing where they got to hear how those in the Capitol felt or would most likely vote on certain topics. Steven stated that it was a start, but that the key is “to have more resources on the ground to help spread information.” It was a great opportunity where he learned about how and where to put his efforts to help with reforming or passing certain laws.

Steven boiled his trip down to the two most important things he learned on the trip. The first was what patron’s beef checkoff dollars go towards through his visit in Colorado and Washington D.C. The second was what the NCBA does on the political side, the huge commitment of all their employees. He discussed the skill and intelligence of the individuals fighting for America’s ranching families, how they could be paid more elsewhere, but that this is what they are passionate about and that they are dedicated to this cause.

Steven’s advice to young cattle ranchers out there was that for anyone considering an experience like this is, “to do it! Make the time, do the interviews and GO.” In order to be eligible for future national tours, young cattlemen in Oregon have to simply be nominated by an Oregon Cattlemen’s Association (OCA) member. Steven’s advice was to not be daunted, “do not be afraid to ask to be nominated, to inquire, and don’t back out!”

Steven’s hope for the future of cattlemen in Oregon and America is that they continue to push the Young Cattlemen’s program, to encourage individuals to be more active in the beef industry and that is something he plans on doing in the future with the assistance of his two brothers. He has learned through this national tour about the change in millennials and that they are wanting to know where their beef is coming from. Through the flexibility of the consumers and the never-ending hard work and goodwill spirit of the ranchers, the cattle industry has a strong future in front of it.

And for now, it’s back to the ranch for Steven!