Livestock Marketing Association's president said, "It is clear to me that LMA now is the custodian of the traditional values" of the livestock industry, "and the voice of the grassroots producer."

John Willis, Lake City, Fl, conceded "that is a pretty big claim." But he said, during his inaugural address in Bakersfield, CA, he reached that conclusion after looking at what LMA has been doing in the last couple of years on critical industry issues, like the beef checkoff, mandatory prices reporting and ensuring a competitive livestock marketplace.

Installed along with Willis at LMA's annual meeting were President-elect Pat Goggins, Billings, MT; Vice President Billy E. Perrin, Hugo, OK; Treasurer Charles Messer, Asheville, NM; and Secretary Randy Patterson, Anthony, KS.

Willis said the projects LMA has undertaken, and the "public positions we have taken," merit his assessment of LMA's role in today's' industry. He cited:

--Gathering signatures of almost 150,000 producers who want to vote on the beef checkoff. It is the right of "every producer who is paying $1 per head into the beef checkoff program to have the right to choose whether that program should continue," and "believe producers have that right, or you don't."

Some people, Willis noted, wonder "why a marketing group had to step forward and become the custodian of this right, and not a producer group."

But the veteran marketman said, It is the grassroots producer who provides the majority of checkoff dollars. "And who collects the lion's share of that money, and sees that grassroots producer, more often than we do?"

--Continuous support of mandatory livestock price reporting. Providing price information "is a way of life for those of us in marketing. We know there can not be effective competition without accurate, comprehensive price reporting. That is why we have consistently supported and testified in favor of mandatory price reporting. It will help level the playing field, for all of us."

And, unlike other national industry groups, "Nobody had to lean on LMA" to get its support. "We have been on the producers' side of this issue from the very beginning," he said.

--Protection competitive livestock marketing. "We are the custodians of a marketing system that is unparalleled in the flexibility it gives today's producers, and the returns it brings them." LMA is bringing that message to producers through national advertising and a video, "True Price Discovery."

Willis said he wanted LMA members to become more comfortable with the new technology that will become "more important to all of our businesses in the years ahead," such as the Internet and electronic commerce. To that end. LMA will offer member workshops and training sessions.

Elected to a three-year term on the board of directors was Ken Jordan, San Saba, TX. Elected to one-year terms, as directors-at-large, were Jack Green, Roanoke, AL; Max Olvera, Turlock, CA; Jim Santomaso, Sterling, CO; and Mike Samples, Salina, KS.

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