The year 2020 began with more than 600 bison ranchers, marketers and enthusiasts gathering in Denver, CO to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the National Bison Association. There was a lot to celebrate:
• The bison business had enjoyed a decade-long run of steadily increasing market prices and producer profitability.
• The cooperation between the National Bison Association, Tribal leaders and conservationists that led to designation of bison as the National Mammal in 2016 was continuing to grow and strengthen.
• After a multi-year fight, the nation’s pet food regulators adopted new rules to prohibit water buffalo and water buffalo ingredients to be deceptively marketed simply as “buffalo.”
• New social media apps developed through assistance from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service and Risk Management Agency assisted producers to connect with consumers, and effectively manage the health of their herds.
Then March hit.
The bison business was not immune to the disruption that hit farmers and ranchers across the country. As restaurants shuttered, the market for the high-end cuts of bison meat disappeared. Even as consumers began to reach out to bison ranchers to directly source meat for their freezers, the closure of the large meat processing facilities created a bottleneck at smaller-scale plants that forced those ranchers to face a months-long delay in being able to schedule their animals for processing.
Just as bison turn into storms, so, too did the National Bison Association face the challenges created by COVID-19.
After being deemed ineligible for relief under the two initial USDA Coronavirus Assistance Programs, persistent efforts by the NBA and its individual rancher-members convinced USDA to reverse positions in September and include bison producers. Similarly, a concerted effort by the association and its members convinced the USDA to agree to purchase $17 million in bison meat for use in federal food and nutrition programs.
Those two efforts are helping to create a new foundation upon which the bison business can rebuild stability and profitability. The outlook is bright.
The COVID pandemic has accelerated consumer interest in eating nutritious, delicious foods that are produced in harmony with nature. Those consumers are rapidly discovering bison meat as the perfect protein. That’s one reason that we’ve trademarked the term, Bison: Regenerative by Nature.
If you are interested in bison, now is the time to investigate getting a start in the bison business. The National Bison Association can help you.
The National Bison Association offers a trove of resources to assist producers in developing a viable, sustainable and profitable bison business. Our 2nd Edition Bison Producers’ Handbook is packed with information from 25 different experts on all facets of bison ranching and marketing. Our new Producers’ App, developed through the assistance of USDA’s Risk Management Agency, provides a new tool for measuring and monitoring all aspects of your herd.
The first step is to join the National Bison Association.
Membership in the NBA will give you access to a wealth of additional resources that can help you get started. Most importantly, membership in the association will connect you with producers across the country who are willing to help you begin a successful career in the bison business.
The future is bright for the bison business. Producers, marketers, customers, chefs, nutritionists and environmentalists all agree: America’s original red meat is good for our health, good for our environment, and absolutely delicious.
If you are interested in becoming part of the emerging, exciting bison community, please contact the NBA at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at (303) 292-2833. We’re here to help.