Cattlemen pan changes to Va. livestock job
RICHMOND, Va. — Cattle producers in Virginia are questioning changes the state agriculture department recently made to a key management position, claiming it could harm livestock marketing efforts for producers statewide.
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services created a new Commodity Services Division last year, reshuffled departments and recently changed the job description of its livestock marketing program supervisor, removing many references to “marketing”.
The change alarmed some cattlemen and department employees who said they feared it would dilute state marketing efforts domestically and abroad. In addition to overseeing the state’s livestock grading and evaluation program, the manager marketed Virginia producers to the livestock industry. The job was also re-titled to program manager.
The unique specificities of cattle production require a dedicated marketing manager with the correct skill set, said Mike Carpenter, the former Livestock Services manager who retired Aug. 2.
“The perception is that by removing the word ‘marketing’ from the position, you are removing marketing from the program,” he said.
The agriculture department received so many complaints that Commissioner Jewel H. Bronaugh addressed the state cattle industry in an Aug. 7 letter about widely disseminated “misinformation” regarding the changes.
“In the time that Livestock Services has been part of the new Commodity Services Division, staff have continued to engage in market development projects and no legitimate market development work has been halted,” she said.
She said a “campaign” to reverse the changes is “not justified by the facts.”
The changes concerned producers because the manager has built profitable relationships in the past, said Ernie Reeves, an Augusta County cattleman. He cited a series of deals that have moved 15,000 head to Canadian buyers over the last two years.
“Virginia is kind of outside the major cattle producing region, but we are a large cattle producing state, so we need to make other states aware of (that) to encourage more buyers to buy Virginia cattle,” he said. “If (marketing) is taken out of that job description, I’d like to know who’s going to pick up the slack and continue that effort.”
In an email to the Delmarva Farmer, Bronaugh reiterated that the description changes don’t alter the position’s core responsibilities.
“While the agency has made changes to the program manager position to prioritize the management and supervisory functions of the position, we DO NOT plan to eliminate any of the marketing services we have provided for the livestock industry,” she said.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated when Mike Carpenter, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service’s former livestock marketing program manger, retired. He retired Aug. 2. The error has been corrected above.
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