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AAA perseveres through 2020 and optimistically looks forward to the future

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

            “2020 has been a tough year, hasn’t it? We saw a storm rage through Iowa, fires burning in the West and hurricanes tearing through the southern states. But, like many other tough years, 2020 has taught us a lot of lessons, and one of the biggest lessons we have learned this year is the value of perseverance,” stated Mark McCully, CEO of the American Angus Association (AAA).

            During the opening ceremony of the 137th AAA Annual Meeting in Kansas City, Mo., McCully addressed attendees, praising them for their ability to adapt and move forward despite challenging circumstances and encouraging them to look toward the future with optimism. 

Persevering through tough times

            “2020 has been a year to adapt, a year to innovate, a year to be nimble and a year to move forward,” said McCully. “I am inspired by and proud of the way those in the ag community have continued to persevere, even when things looked pretty bleak.”

            McCully noted, in his opinion, some of the most inspiring individuals this year have been the youth.

            “Watching our young people, who have also had to overcome some disappointments and miss out on big life events like graduation and sports seasons, has been one of the most inspiring things for me to do over the past few months,” he said. “We had young people out in the barns with their heifers and their steers. They headed out early and they headed out late, and they continued to persevere even when the outlook of in-person livestock shows was uncertain.” 

            McCully also commended Angus breeders for their hard work and flexibility amidst challenging circumstances due to COVID-19 restrictions.

            “I watched Angus breeders and our members as they dealt with COVID-19 restrictions sent their way right in the middle of spring bull sale season,” said McCully. “They dealt with travel restrictions, gathering size restrictions and all sorts of uncertainty during a really important time of year. Yet, they innovated. They went about remodeling their sales and utilizing new technology, just so they could adapt to the circumstances and continue moving forward.”

            With the widespread impact of COVID-19 restrictions, McCully praised other individuals in the industry as well.    

            “I am so proud of the team I get to work with every single day,” he stated. “Our AAA staff had to learn how to do our jobs differently and how to work from home. We had to keep up with the change in innovation all of our members are dealing with.”

            He continued, “Our events and education team had to scrap months of planning. They remodeled and reimagined all of our events, but they made it happen. They made this happen. We got through it, and we will continue to move forward.” 

A silver lining

            Despite all of the challenges the association and its members have seen in 2020, McCully believes there is a silver lining.

            “For the first time in our lives, consumers went into the store and found empty shelves. I think a silver lining in all of this is those consumers had to stand there and think a little bit harder about their food supply,” McCully said. “They had to think a little bit harder about what goes into making sure they have the safest, highest-quality, most affordable and most accessible food supply in the world. That is all thanks to our cattle producers who work to achieve this each and every day.”

            He continued, “I love telling the story about how Angus breeders, when faced with eroding consumer demand and eroding demand for registered Angus seedstock, innovated, changed and went against the grain to focus on building a higher-quality end product with the consumer in mind.” 

            In fact, McCully noted the Certified Angus Beef (CAB) brand has continuously produced some of the highest-quality beef in history, with 36 percent CAB acceptance rates and 10 percent Prime beef for weeks in a row throughout 2020. 

Looking forward, moving ahead

            To wrap up his discussion, McCully presented attendees with five long-range objectives AAA will strive toward as they move forward. 

            These include driving breed objectives, enhancing member experience and success, fostering the profitability of the commercial cattle producer, serving as a trusted industry resource and growing consumer trust and loyalty.

McCully also encouraged attendees to keep moving forward and to be optimistic when looking forward to the future.

            “Not a week goes by where I don’t have a conversation, read an article or see something online about a new product, a new company, a new innovation or a new partnership that has the potential to be very disruptive to the cattle business,” he said. 

“However, as I look to the future, I am encouraged,” he added. “I am encouraged by our history, which has proved we can embrace change and allow for innovation, creativity and independence. We have a tradition of progress, and 2020, even with all of its tricks, didn’t slow us down.” 

            Hannah Bugas is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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