The bright red shirts of the National Beef Ambassadors make a pretty bold statement in a crowd. The word “Beef” is emblazoned across the chest, and the students are ready and enthusiastic to take the U.S. by storm, sharing the positive word about cattle ranchers and beef production with today’s consumers.
Sponsored by the beef checkoff, the 2012 National Beef Ambassador Competition was held in Wooster, OH, over the weekend. I was in attendance, supporting my sister, Courtney, and watching as the competitors tested their beef knowledge in front of judges for the chance to be on the national team. Four areas, including a media interview, consumer panel, issues response and classroom presentation, were evaluated and the team was announced yesterday morning.
Congratulations to Emily Jacks, Texas; Kim Rounds, California; John Weber, Minnesota; Arika Snyder, Pennsylvania; and Rossie Blinson, North Carolina. Another round of applause goes to our junior winners, including: Austin Gaspard, Louisiana; Abigail Grisedale, California; and Rachel Purdy, Wyoming.
Of the program, Cattlemen's Beef Board Vice Chair Weldon Wynn said, "I have fought diligently through the years for this program. I will give you all my word, that as long as I'm here, this program must go on. This group is impressive; just look at all of you. These young people are the future."
Bill Donald, National Cattlemen's Beef Association president, agreed and added, "What makes this program relevant is the touch points these kids can make. It takes three things to be successful and make connections with our consumers -- knowledge, passion and youthful enthusiasm. The Beef Ambassadors have it."
It was a great weekend spent with the Beef Ambassadors, but I’m wearing a different hat this week. Courtney and I are attending the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association’s “Increased Connections” Fall Fly-In 2011, where we will be visiting with our congressmen, attending a press conference on rural broadband issues and meeting with USDA officials.
Additionally, I will be speaking at the press conference about how I use Internet to promote the beef industry using blogs, Twitter and Facebook, as well as connect with customers for my family's cattle business and increase the word on my children's book. For all three of these venues, high-speed Internet access is a huge priority. Working from home, I live 20 miles from the closest tower, and on cloudy, rainy days or when the trees are in bloom, I have a very spotty connection. As a result, I had to purchase a mobile hot-spot and plan, which more than doubled my monthly bill. Between the two, I have working Internet 75% of the time, and on really bad days, I have to drive to town and sit in a local coffee shop to complete my work. Since my hometown doesn’t have 4G Internet access, when I needed to send the large file of illustrations for my book to the publisher, I had to go all the way to Sioux Falls, a 70-minute drive, to gain fast enough speed to email the files. To say the Internet plays a huge role in my business is an understatement.
The Internet spurs businesses, and ensures that farmers and ranchers achieve optimal productivity by having instant access to news and information, the most up-to-date grain prices, and even customer needs. But unfortunately, some 19 million rural Americans today still lack access to this critical tool. I’m proud to join rural Americans in asking Congress and the administration to support policies that will ensure that all Americans can reap the benefits that the Internet has to offer. Rural America has certainly been a leader in our economic recovery efforts following the economic crisis in 2008, but there is opportunity to do more and we must encourage policies that help rural America along the way.
What’s the internet service in your neck of the woods? Please, share your testimonies with me today, and I will be sure to pass along your thoughts to our policy-makers in Washington, D.C. Thanks for your help!