If you’re not at the table, you risk being on the menu.” That’s a maxim that J.D. Alexander says he likes to cite when folks ask him about industry participation.

“There’s a lot of truth in those words, and it fits a lot of different contexts, but I think it particularly applies to the U.S. beef industry. We have to make sure we’re out in front representing our interests, particularly in Washington, D.C.,” he says.

Alexander, a third-generation farmer-feeder from Pilger, NE, has been living that dictum for almost 20 years as an industry volunteer. Come early February, it will take on even more significance when he becomes president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). As president, Alexander will be the point man in leading the organization as it navigates through a number of challenges in the coming year. A few of those include:

  • Extreme volatility in the marketplace. For livestock producers, in particular, who operate in an open and unprotected market compared to grain producers, such volatility makes things particularly risky and planning extremely difficult.

  • Input prices. Though prices for all classes of cattle have been record or near-record recently, the high cost of inputs – notably for feed and fuel – have greatly shrunk what otherwise would have been very favorable margins for producers.

  • Government regulation. Regu-latory creep from Washington continues to raise the cost of doing business.

  • Tighter credit markets.

  • Domestic and international economies that still hang precariously in the balance.