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NLPA Board Member Profiles: NLPA Vice Chairman Gary Smith

(National Livestock Producers Assn., 6/29/12) -- In an effort to become better acquainted with the members of the NLPA Board of Directors, NLPA staff created a set of questions to ask each board member. Here are the questions and responses from NLPA's Vice Chairman, Gary Smith of Glenwood, Iowa. Smith represents Producers Livestock Marketing Association in Omaha, Neb. and has served on the NLPA Board of Directors since 2006.

Gary Smith

1.       When did you first become involved in the livestock industry and why?

I first became involved with livestock as a 9 yr. old in 4-H showing a market heifer.  My father, grandfather, and uncles all fed cattle so I guess you could say I was born into the business.

2.       Tell us about your education.

I graduated from Iowa State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Animal Science in 1980. I came home and immediately started farming with my father. We finished cattle and also had a commercial cow herd at that time along with corn, soybeans and pasture. I also finished hogs in a high labor, low overhead setup for about 10 years.

3.       What do you like best about working in the livestock industry?

What I like best about agriculture is the people you get to work with. I definitely feel livestock people are the salt of the earth.  It takes a different kind of determination to work with livestock. I currently work full-time as an ag loan officer at our local community bank, but I still get out to help my son on the farm whenever I can. I still enjoy being around our cattle and I also enjoy being around livestock people and their operations.

4.       What is your favorite cut of meat, and what would you eat with it?

My favorite cut of meat is the New York Strip. I would prefer to eat it with a fresh garden salad and garlic mashed potatoes. A nice local brewed beer would also fit nicely with the meal.

5.       What do you see as the biggest change in the livestock marketing and/or credit industry since you began your career?

I think the biggest change in livestock marketing in my lifetime has been the switch from terminal marketing and live competive bidding to direct buying and a much less interactive and personal communication between the seller and buyer. On the credit side, I started out farming when interest rates were 18% ....we basically lost a whole generation of farmers. The plethora of credit sources for agriculture is mind boggling at the present time.  The sheer amount of capital required to operate a viable-sized farm is incredible today.  I am afraid we are going to lose another generation of farmers or ranchers simply because they can't get a foothold due to the amount of capital required to get started.

6.       How do you think the USA compares to other countries in regard to the livestock industry?

I think the USA compares quite favorably to the rest of the world as far as animal agriculture goes. Our biggest challenge is to educate our consumers with regard to our husbandry practices...why we do things the way we do. I still think we have the safest food system in the world no matter what some so-called experts may say. The beef industry in particular has debunked many myths over the last few years with regard to green house gas sources. We need the facts to get as much publicity as the untruths, we owe it to our consumers.

7.       If you had to pick an alternate career, what would you choose and why?

If I couldn't be involved with agriculture the way I am now, I would probably try to be involved connecting retiring producers with young farmers looking for a place to get a foothold. The next generation is this country's future.

8.       What was your first job?

The first job I remember getting paid for was walking beans as a kid with a corn knife cuttting sunflowers, pigweeds, and cockleburrs. I worked as a banquet waiter while I was in college to earn some spending money.

9.   If you had to work in a sale barn for a day, what job would you choose and why?

I think I would like to work in the ring taking bids and shuffling the livestock in and out.  I would get to interact with the livestock and the livestock two favorite groups.

10.   Tell us a bit about your family and what you like to do outside of work.

I met my wife Anne at Iowa State.  She was a city girl I brought home to the farm after graduation in 1980. She is a Licensed Social Worker for our County Public Health Agency, supervising the Home Care Aides as well as being an Outreach Education Coordinator. We have a son Brady, who along with his wife Melissa now live on the home farm.  Brady also graduated from Iowa State with a Bachelors Degree in Ag Studies. We are proud that he is the sixth generation to operate our farm which was recognized as a Century Farm in 1977 and a Heritage Farm in 2010. As of this year the home farm has been in our family for 156 years. Melissa works at our local County Extension Office as their Office Administrator. Our daughter Emily, husband Matt, and their son Michael live about 5 minutes away from us near Glenwood. Emily also graduated from Iowa State with a Bachelors in Exercise Science and now has a Bachelors in Nursing from Creighton University. She currently works at the Univerity of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.  Matt works as a Manager at TD Ameritrade in Bellevue Nebraska.  Our favorite hobbies are golf and spending time with our family.

Look for more Board member profiles in upcoming issues of the NLPA Weekly News Brief.

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