The board of directors of the American Seed Trade Association has named Andrew W. LaVigne as the organization's new president and CEO. LaVigne replaces outgoing President and CEO Dick Crowder, who was confirmed as the chief agriculture negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

“The ASTA board is very pleased that Andy has chosen to accept this position,” said Jim Tobin, ASTA chairman. “He brings to our association an extensive and accomplished history of leadership in the legislative, regulatory and trade arenas that will allow us to build on the past successes of ASTA.

“Our industry is poised to address several critical issues in the next couple of years, and Andy has the established record and relationships to help ensure our successful completion of those challenges.”

LaVigne was executive director and CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual for the past seven years. Mutual is a trade association of more than 10,500 members charged with representing the production, processing and regulatory issues that face citrus growers at the regional, state, national and international levels.

Prior to joining Mutual, LaVigne was executive director of the Florida Fertilizer and Agrichemical Association. He also spent a decade in Washington, D.C., working in Congress and at USDA.

“I am extremely honored and excited about the opportunity to join ASTA,” said LaVigne. “The seed industry has numerous possibilities to impact issues that are fundamental to U.S. agriculture, and it is imperative that we are at the table for the development of those policies.”

The beef industry has always hitched its wagon to research, partly because science is separate from the pressures of society. Now, however, the long-range plan has evolved guiding principles that incorporate producer sociology.

A central theme is that “the U.S. beef industry is uniquely independent and interdependent.” It fosters the “freedom to choose your own business models, marketing techniques, partnerships or organizations.” But it concludes with a call to work “together toward a shared vision” of producing “the world's most preferred protein.” That's how we will increase profit opportunities and grow beef demand.

Like table legs, the plan rests on four priorities creating value, growth, sustainability and opportunity. Each has givens and new frontiers. Givens include age/process/source-verification, continuing work on beef demand drivers, proactive government policy and a goal of 100 percent animal identification by 2007.

The new frontiers are many, aimed at finding pathways to success for each producer and recognizing that everything starts at the cow-calf level. Growth and opportunities should come from the natural global advantage of U.S. grain-fed, high-quality beef, and matching products with market-by-market demand. Sustainability should come from political action as well as proactive communications that “tell our story.”

What is true for the industry is just as true for the individual — if everyone buys into the plan, it can't miss. But market conditions have distracted us. When calves are $1.40 per hundredweight, plans seem less important.

Keep in mind that consumer dollars determine prices. Without the 20 percent increase in consumer demand since 1998, the recent peak would have been more like 90 cents per hundredweight. The new plan calls for another 10 percent increase in demand by 2010, which should help offset the lower prices that come with the cyclical increase in beef supplies.

To achieve that next step in demand growth, we will have to wake up again. Many of the negative issues in the 2000 NBQA have only gotten worse — too much external fat, oversized carcasses, too few high-quality cattle. We can change for the better, and dollar incentives are about to kick in to get our attention.

Prices will stay at profitable levels for the right kind of cattle, managed for a high-quality endpoint. Take steps now to discover what you have and improve its value to the consumer.


Steve Suther is director of industry information for the Certified Angus Beef Program. e-mail: cabsteve@aol.com.