“Decisions are made by the people who show up,” Randall Debler repeated.
As a full-time cattleman in Alma, Kansas, his personal philosophy of giving back and showing up for the important decisions means he whole-heartedly represents beef producers on the Kansas Beef Council (KBC) in his current role as vice chairman of the KBC Executive Committee.
Debler will take the reins as chairman in 2022.
“I really wanted to sit with people who care as much about the beef industry and want to see it prosper as much as I do,” he said.
Serving the industry
In his five years on KBC, Debler has seen how the Beef Checkoff dollar is spent, how it’s evaluated and how it has impacted our industry. He’s encouraged by Checkoff-funded projects which include supporting family and consumer science teachers using beef in the classroom, working with dietitians to promote the health benefits of beef, developing value-added cuts of beef from in-house development, as well as offering the Beef Quality Assurance program.
“The people on the executive committee are the same people who are paying the checkoff,” Debler said. “It is in our best interest to see the dollars get handled in the best way.”
Cow-calf producers, seedstock producers, stockers, sale barns and feedlots all have representation on the board.
Checking the checkoff
Checks and balances are an important part of the Beef Checkoff, which is overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Beef Checkoff was created in 1985 as a producer-driven effort to increase beef demand. USDA remains the delegated authority to review all Beef Checkoff budgets, projects, contracts and communications.
Prior to the Beef Checkoff, Kansas saw similar challenges in the industry and formed KBC within the Kansas Livestock Association (KLA). KBC is tasked with beef promotion, research, consumer information, producer communications and more.
Unlike KLA, however, KBC is strictly prohibited from spending its funds on policy. KBC must set and maintain firewalls from KLA to ensure checkoff dollars are managed separately, preserving the efficacy of the program.
Maximizing producer impact
Debler likes to specifically mention the impact the Checkoff has on the export market.
“More than $300 for every finished steer is attributed to the export market,” he said.
He points to a recent campaign funded by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) in Japan to increase the growing demand for American cuts as a successful example.
While the dollar-per-head checkoff prioritizes promoting beef to consumers, Debler recognizes producers do not always realize the impact of their dollars. To address producer communication, KBC created the Kansas Beef Producer Hub at KansasBeef.org, which offers continuing education, annual reporting, program updates and more.
Debler said they also compile research about misconceptions of the beef industry producers can utilize in conversations with consumers. He recommends producers sign up for publications like CBB’s The Drive and KBC’s newsletter to see the impact of their dollars in Kansas and worldwide.
Participation is key for producers. Debler encourages those interested to volunteer for leadership roles in any of the ag groups across the state and notes the highlight of his tenure has been the people.
“Meeting producers all over the country, we see how so many of our problems are different, yet so many of them are the same,” he said.
As a Flint Hills rancher raising the next generation of kids and calves, Debler firmly believes the Beef Checkoff, at both the national and state levels, is critical to our future.
“It’s such a great industry and we are trying to move it forward the best we can,” Debler said. “You just need to show up to have input and an impact.”