Virginia’s Copenhaver is leading NCBA policymaking for beef industry
Gene Copenhaver, a long-time leader in the Virginia beef cattle industry, is the new policy chairman of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. He was elected to the influential position during the association’s convention in New Orleans earlier this year.
Copenhaver was chosen to head the committee after serving a year as vice-chairman.
This move up in the national organization by the life-long farmer and retired banker gives the Virginia cattle industry a voice in a business often associated with the western part of the country.
He is hard at work to advance the industry’s concerns. He demonstrated this the day of the Virginia Beef Expo in Harrisonburg as he traveled down Interstate 81, making stops at livestock markets in Staunton and Dublin. He was heading to home in Meadowview, Va. when he stopped in Dublin to talk with The Delmarva Farmer about his vision for the beef industry.
“There has not ever been a top NCBA officer representing the East Coast,” he said. “The production system here is different from other parts of the country.”
He mainly referenced the cow/calf sector which exists primarily in small herds across the Mid-Atlantic.
He noted the average beef herd size in Virginia is 35 cow/calf pairs.
“The reason I do this,” Copenhaver said, “I have a 20-year-old son with a lot of passion for this and we want to continue.”
This spring Copenhaver said he has come to think about the beef industry as being like an old-fashioned three-legged milk stool. The three legs all have to work to stay up or be sustainable. These are profitability, environment and sustainability.
“The first leg is profitability,” he said. “The industry has to be profitable in all segments,” he said, adding, “I think it may happen this year.”
He said producers have to be good stewards of the land and aware of animal welfare. He noted farmers are the first conservationists, He linked taking care of the land and animals also helps with the profit.
He sees farming as a generational industry, saying the farmer needs a family member who wants to continue in the industry or another farmer who wants to continue with the farm.
As for the third leg, Copenhaver said, “We have to tell consumers how sustainability works.”
He noted that there are so many other issues for the industry to be concerned about. Among these are the Waters of the United States rule, labeling of food, and the Farm Bill.
Working to be sure there are funds in the Farm Bill for risk management is critical, Copenhaver said.. Livestock Risk management is one priority. Another is making sure the continued funding for a vaccine bank to fight foot and mouth disease. This highly contagious bovine disease has never been detected in the United States, he confirmed, but is spreading around the world.
Plans are in place, that if it should occur on one farm, all commerce will be shut down for 72 hours.
“I know Gene will well represent Virginians along with all the people across the United States involved in the beef cattle industry,” Wayne Campbell, past president of the Virginia Cattlemen’s Association, said congratulating Copenhaver.
“We’re excited to have Gene moving up the NCBA ladder, making a difference for the nation’s cattle industry,” Brandon Reeves, VCA executive director, said.
NCBA’s 2023 policy focus is to protect and promote the economic, environmental and social sustainability of the cattle industry.
The Copenhaver family has long been active in Virginia’s farm industry. Gene is retired from First Bank and Trust following a 38-year career as agriculture loan officer. He is a former president of the Virginia Cattlemen’s Association. He and his younger son Will are continuing the farming tradition. His older son Brad most recently served as the 17th commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer services prior to the change of administrations in Richmond.