It doesn't require you to pass the SAT, ACT or even the LSAT to earn this MBA, but beef producers will benefit just the same. It's the MBA - the Masters of Beef Advocacy Program - launching this fall by the beef checkoff program. The newly designed MBA program is an e-learning opportunity developed to assist producers across the country in becoming effective spokespersons for the industry.

The program consists of six, 1-hour core courses for the 2009 fiscal year: beef safety, beef nutrition, animal care, environmental stewardship, modern beef production and the beef checkoff.

"The MBA program will be a voluntary, self-directed online learning environment designed for beef producers. It will provide them with facts about their industry and their product, beef. Producers who participate in the MBA program will be equipped to communicate those facts to fellow producers and consumers," says Cattlemen's Beef Board (CBB) member Daryl Berlier Owen, cow/calf producer and feeder from Amarillo, Texas, and vice chair of the Joint Public Relations Subcommittee. "This checkoff-funded program will help producers get involved and active in promoting their industry by telling the story about beef."

Idaho, Iowa, Nebraska and Texas this fall will kick off a pilot program with producers in their areas. Based on this pilot, the MBA will be introduced on a nationwide basis. The complete program consists of a reading exercise, followed by a short "your story in your own words" essay assignment, and concludes with an open-book quiz. At the end of the MBA program, producers are given a homework assignment to complete one of three exercises - with media, online or public speaking.

The program won't stop there. MBA alumni will be encouraged to conduct team outreach on issues management topics. Producers who complete the program will be added to a weekly e-newsletter that gets them further involved through action items. They are then asked to voluntarily submit an online response to a blog post or write a letter to the editor, just to name two examples. Continuing education rewards are granted on an ongoing basis when producers log follow-up activities.

"Many producers have been approached by their local church, school, FFA, 4-H or Kiwanis club to speak about beef," says Owen. "Now, the checkoff is equipping us with the tools we need to say 'yes' to that request. It's just another way we can be involved on a grassroots level and proactively be of service to this industry."

A full-day MBA graduation course will be held at the Cattle Industry Annual Convention and Cattle Industry Summer Conference. Producers wanting more information should contact Daren Williams at dwilliams@beef.org, 303-850-3346 or contact their state beef council. For more information about checkoff-funded programs.