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NLPA Board Member Profiles: Walt Ernesti

(National Livestock Producers Assn., Jan. 16, 2013) -- 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 Board member Walt Ernesti of Omaha, Neb. Ernesti represents Producers Livestock Credit Corporation in Omaha, Neb. and has served on the NLPA Board of Directors since 2000. He has also served on the NLPA Sheep & Goat Fund Committee since 2002.
Walt Ernesti

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

I grew up on a livestock farm and enjoyed working with both hogs and cattle.  We had a stock cow herd, dairy cows, finished cattle plus a farrow to finish swine operation and raised corn, oats, alfalfa and soybeans.  We also had chickens but I am not claiming that as a livestock operation.

2.       Tell us about your education.

I graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Ag Economics from University of Nebraska in 1968. Right after graduation I spent four years in the US Navy with two deployments to Vietnam. After my discharge I realized the family farm could not support another family, therefore, I went to work for the Federal Land Bank.

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

Making a difference in the farmer/rancher lives by helping them improve their financials. Another aspect of the job is interacting with some great people.  Some of these people who started out as customers have also become friends.

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

Ribeye steak along with a salad.

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

Today there is a significant amount of volatility in our markets generally caused by investors, government reports and misperception about animal agriculture. The number of farmers who feed livestock today has decreased significantly. It was common for most of the farmsteads to have cattle or hogs, now most of the farmsteads are gone and very few of those remaining raise livestock. The large amount of capital required in today's farming/livestock operation has prevented some young operators from getting started.  

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

I feel the United States has the best livestock in the world and can complete with other countries especially in the cost to finish the animal and the taste of the finish product. I had the opportunity to visit Belgium a couple of years ago and their main meat staple was horse and rabbit as they felt beef was too expensive.

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

I have enjoyed Ag Lending especially getting to know a wide variety of people, but if this was not available then being a full-time livestock grain operator. There is a great amount of satisfaction in raising crops and livestock, in addition this would afford significant flexibility and allow you be your own boss.

8.       What was your first job?

If you are referring to a job I got paid for it would be in college where I usually had three jobs at a time to help pay for my education.  After that Uncle Sam paid me for four years in the Navy and in 1972 I started working for the Federal Land Bank in Valentine, NE (now Farm Credit Services).

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

I always wanted to go auctioneer school because I feel that would be a great way to get the best price for the livestock being sold.

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

I married my wife Mary Ann in 1967 after she graduated from Creighton University as a Register Med Tech (yes I was finishing up my last year in college and she has now retired).  We have three daughters, Lisa is single, graduated from University of Iowa Law School and does legal work for Wells Fargo; Barb graduated with her Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Creighton University, married and has three children and works at a hospital in Lincoln, Neb., and our youngest Kim graduated with her teaching degree from College of Saint Mary's  and is teaching at a local high school, married and has one child. I also have eight siblings and my mother is 96 years young and still has a sharp mind.   

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

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