Virginia beef group names new top director
DALEVILLE, Va. — Changes have come to the Virginia Beef Council in the past year as the agency has moved into its own industry niche. The most visible part of the change so far is having its own executive director.
Stephanie Weiss, a Pittsylvania County native, was recently named executive director of the council, a body that exists for one purpose only — to promote beef.
The Virginia Beef Council was established under the Beef Checkoff Program as part of the 1985 Farm Bill. The council administers the Beef Checkoff Program in Virginia, which assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products. Half of the Checkoff remains in Virginia and half subsidizes national promotional efforts coordinated through the Cattlemen’s Beef Board where all Checkoff collections, state and national, are utilized to build demand for beef and beef products through promotion, education and research.
Until last year, the Council and Cattlemen’s Association were managed by one executive director with dual responsibilities of a two-hat state scenario like many other states such as Kentucky and Tennessee.
Due to multiple factors, including lawsuits against USDA, the Council decided it prudent to separate from the Virginia Cattlemen’s Association into a separate business for maximum transparency.
The council consists of 13 members: two cattle producers from each of six regions of Virginia based on cattle census data and one at large handler. They represent a broad spectrum of the industry including producers and support agencies and businesses.
Hank Maxey of Chatham, Va., is chairman of the council. He owns and operates a commercial cow/calf and poultry operation.
Weiss comes to the new job with a solid agricultural foundation. Her family has been farming in Pittsylvania county since the early 1800s. They produced tobacco and had a cow-calf operation.
She earned a degree in veterinary technology and worked in large and small animal practice for 10 years. During the past nine years, she has served as facility director for the Olde Dominion Agricultural Foundation. This non-profit is a grass roots, producer owned organization, she explained. It constructed the Olde Dominion Agricultural Complex.
Weiss feels blessed to have worked with farmers and others from all segments of agriculture in Virginia. She believes the relationships she has developed in the industry will be resources for council’s work and the industry.
She looks forward to working with the council to be good stewards of the funds that come from the national checkoff and to use them in increasing market demand for beef.
She is currently working to develop a pilot program in some schools in lower income counties to teach about the nutritional value of beef and to get more of this single ingredient meat in school lunches there.
She outlined some of her plans in a recent article in The Virginia Cattleman.
“In 2020, the Virginia Beef Council will work to enhance consumer preference for beef to strengthen Virginia families,” she wrote. “We will focus on the areas of protecting beef’s image and enhancing consumer knowledge of beef’s health, nutrition, safety and convenience.”
She said the council has developed several new partnerships it feels will increase demand for beef in Virginia and educate consumers about the safety, husbandry and best practices Virginia cattle producers are using to produce quality beef.
These partners include the Richmond Raceway, the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech.
They plan to continue working with traditional ag groups such as Virginia Farm Bureau, high school culinary arts teachers and the Ag in the Classroom program.
Other goals are to collaborate with influencers such as dietitians, physicians and fitness coaches as they attend conferences across the state.
“The council is also seeking innovative partnerships to enhance the wellbeing conversation in areas where food deserts and poverty are common,” Weiss continued.
Weiss can be reached at the Daleville VCA office at 540-992-1992 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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