On Nov. 7, 2014, the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) concluded its annual Strategic Planning Conference in Arlington, Virginia, with election of new officers. Leann Saunders of Castle Rock, Colorado, is USMEF chair, succeeding Mark Jagels of Davenport, Nebraska.
Saunders is co-founder and president of Where Food Comes From, an agricultural and food verification and certification company. Saunders previously worked for PM Beef Holdings, where she developed the first-ever USDA Process Verified Program for U.S. beef. She also worked as a purchasing specialist for McDonald’s Corporation and for Hudson Foods.
Saunders remains actively involved in her family’s ranching and stocker operations and is part owner of the Mayfield Heritage Cattle Company in Animas, New Mexico. In her address to USMEF members, Saunders said her ranching background shaped the values and perspective she brings to the position of USMEF chair.
“I grew up on a cow/calf operation in southwestern Colorado, and my father was a first-generation rancher,” she explained. “You don’t hear about that happening very often, because it’s very difficult to do. During my childhood, he worked two – and sometimes three – jobs, always with the goal of becoming a full-time cattleman. He also had the full support of my mother and my grandparents, which was critically important. So those values of hard work and perseverance that my parents and grandparents instilled in me – I hope to pass them along to my children.”
Saunders has been involved with USMEF for more than 15 years, and says one aspect of the organization she values most is its ability to provide private sector companies with unparalleled market intelligence. She said members also benefit greatly from the wide range of perspectives represented within USMEF.
“It is the rich diversity of USMEF that really makes it such an exceptional organization,” she said. “USMEF gives us the opportunity to see issues from different vantage points, get together and make a decision, align on that decision and move forward together.”
Roel Andriessen of Dakota Dunes, South Dakota, is the new USMEF chair-elect. He is the senior vice president responsible for Tyson Fresh Meats’ international sales group.
Vice-chair Bruce Schmoll is a soybean and corn producer from Claremont, Minnesota. He has represented the oilseeds producing sector on the USMEF Executive Committee and is a past president of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association.
The newest member of the USMEF officer team is Dennis Stiffler, Ph.D., who will serve as secretary-treasurer. Stiffler is chief executive officer of Mountain States Rosen and has represented the lamb producing and feeding sector on the USMEF Executive Committee. He is based in Bronx, New York.
The next USMEF Board of Directors meeting is set for May 20-22, 2015, in San Antonio, Texas. For more information, please visit www.usmef.org.