ICA names Alan Albright its Hall of Fame recipient for 2014

Alan Albright, Lytton, is the 2014 Iowa Cattlemen’s Association Hall of Fame winner. He was recognized at the Iowa Cattle Industry Convention held in December for the achievements he has had in the cattle and beef industry at the local, state, national and international levels.

Albright’s contributions to the cattle industry have ranged from giving advice to local producers, serving as a leader in the state beef council, working on the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association executive committee, to traveling the world to promote Iowa beef. Like the most valuable of leaders, his work has been tireless and without fanfare.

Albright began working at the local level, grilling burgers for the Calhoun County Cattlemen, and in 1988, he went on the first ever Young Cattlemen’s Tour in Iowa, and that gave him the opportunity to meet other producers from around the state and see many of the beef related businesses that support the cattle industry. In 1989, he led that tour.

“At that time, the president of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association was Marshall King, and he asked me what I thought about the organization. I told him I thought it was a ‘Good Ol’ Boys group run by a bunch of old farts’,” Albright reminisced when accepting the award. “The next year, I was serving on the Iowa Beef Industry Council!”

While that statewide leadership opportunity was one he would grow with, he also kept focused on local activities. In the 1990s, he worked at organizing the Sac and Calhoun County Young Cattlefeeders. The mission of the group was for youth to learn about the business end of cattle production by owning pens of either five or 10 cattle, and also teach them modern feeding practices.

“Through exposure to all aspects of the cattle business, we hoped to take the ‘mystery’ out of the process, and to encourage some of those youth to add cattle feeding to their career plans,” Albright said.

Even though the economic rewards of the cattle business are part of a roller coaster ride, Albright maintains that “there are as good or better economics in the beef business than in any other Iowa agricultural enterprise.”

Albright himself has been feeding cattle for 35 years, first beginning with his father, Jim Albright, and then branching out to his own operation. Now his sons Ben and Nick work with him, not only in the feedlot but also in their corn, soybean and hay operation.

At the national level, Albright gave his time and effort at many levels of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.  He was on the resolutions committee, the budget committee, NCBA Region 3 Vice President, the executive committee where he was federation chairman, and co-chairman of the Beef Promotion Operating Committee, which decides which projects are funded by checkoff dollars.

During the peak of his involvement, “I was gone 50 to 60 days of the year working on industry issues. But I believe you should always give back to the industry that supports you,” he said.

Those leadership roles put him in key positions during critical times for the beef industry. “I remember in December 2003 driving down to Ames for an Iowa State basketball game, and instead I ended up on a national teleconference about how we were going to respond to the discovery of a cow with BSE. The beef industry was ready for this incident because they had a ‘dark’ website that was rolled out immediately. That was made possible by checkoff dollars.”

Albright also recognized the importance of making the most of those checkoff dollars to sell beef globally, as well as to U.S. consumers. He was with the U.S. Meat Export Federation in Tokyo when U.S. beef markets opened in Japan following the “cow that stole Christmas” incident.

He was with the group again when beef exports were exploding in Mexico following the introduction of NAFTA, or the North American Free Trade Agreement. And, Albright may just be a good luck charm when it comes to promoting U.S. beef because he was also involved in a trade mission to Northeastern China – which was the first time the U.S. Meat Export Federation worked in that area, introducing U.S. beef to the real potential of that market.

However, there were often tough discussions in the trips that Albright participated in, including one to Brussels, Belgium to meet with members of the EU Parliament, and heads of the Trade, Agriculture and Health Commission to discuss a resolution in which the EU would ban U.S. beef. Other trips to promote U.S. beef took Albright to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Shanghai, including a ‘Taste of Iowa’ promotion that was spear-headed by then-Governor Tom Vilsack and other Iowa legislators. That trip was punctuated with a severe earthquake that included plaster falling from the ceiling of their rooms.

He smiled while telling the story, and added “Sometimes they are dangerous missions that you volunteer for.”

While Albright’s support of U.S. beef has taken him worldwide with very little fanfare, perhaps the most important personal accomplishment is working with his wife Lisa and bringing their two sons, Ben and Nick, in as the 5th generation of cattle feeders in Calhoun County. This reflects what one of the nominators wrote about Alan: “He has always looked past the present and into the future to make decisions.”

With that said, Albright remarked receiving the Hall of Fame award was “quite an honor, and quite a surprise. I’ve attended these meetings (the ICA convention) for 33 years, and had great respect for those who won this award. I just want to thank those who have come before me.”