May 2017
From the State Vet's Office

A Little (Actually a Lot of) Help From My Friends

The Changing of the Guard at the ACA

I have been writing this column since April 2004. It has been a tremendously helpful way to get important information out to a large number of readers who are often my target audience. I often think of how fortunate I was when Jim Allen and Grace Smith came to visit me in my office and offered me the opportunity to have a regular column in this publication. I have been able to communicate a lot of what I have considered to be important information to you, the reader. If I ever were to receive a bill from Alabama Farmers’ Cooperative for what it has been worth to get the message out in their publication, well, there is just no way I could pay them back. That brings me to the point of this column. There are a lot of people who help me accomplish the things I need to do in my job. In fact, to be honest, without a lot of help from my friends, I am not sure we would accomplish much.

Since becoming state veterinarian, I have worked closely with Tuskegee and Auburn Veterinary schools, the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association, the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association, the Alabama Horse Council, ALFA, USDA Veterinary Services and other groups who have been at the table when we have planned, exercised and put into action so many things dealing with disease surveillance and response to disease threats and outbreaks. I have always been aware that while government could say, "We have the authority and this is how it is going to be," that approach almost never works very well. And as I think back over the years, I don’t think I have made many decisions concerning regulatory situations without going to those groups and seeking input.

A friend of mine, Bill Hawks, former U.S. Undersecretary of Agriculture from Mississippi, used to have a philosophy that simply said, "Working together works." That sounds pretty obvious and it is true, but the obstacle I have often observed is people’s reluctance to work together. I am really, really blessed here in Alabama to have this group of people who come to the table with the attitude of, "Dr. Frazier, what do you need to accomplish and how can we help get it done?" As I said, I am fortunate to work with groups who take that position. Believe me, I do not take it for granted. I am well aware of some of my state veterinarian brothers and sisters across the country who do not enjoy that kind of relationship with the worlds of academics and industry. In fact, sometimes other state veterinarians go to those groups and are told, "Dr. State Veterinarian, you let us know what you need to accomplish and we will let you know whether we are going to support or fight it."

Over the past 16 years that I have served as state veterinarian, I have met and made many good friends from those groups I mentioned earlier. I have been around long enough to say I have seen people come and people go.

As I write this column, we are quickly approaching the passing of the torch at the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association. Dr. Billy Powell, who has been executive vice president of ACA since 1983, is retiring and Erin Beasley will take that position.

Over the years, Powell has been at the table many times as we have debated, discussed and cussed issues ranging from tractors imported from a country with foot-and-mouth disease to animal disease traceability to a positive BSE cow to rules concerning trichomonas to diagnostic laboratory issues. Powell’s wisdom and experience will be missed as we deal with issues down the road. We wish him the best and thank him for his service to the industry. However, I am certainly not worried about the future of ACA.

Beasley has worked for ACA for around six years. Although I have not known Beasley well or really worked closely with her to this point, I have observed what she has done since she has been with ACA. I don’t remember ever hearing my grandpa saying this, but he may have, but I am sure somebody’s grandpa used to always say, "You can learn a lot by just observing how people do their job." I do not think I would get much argument when I say Beasley has been one of the most valuable assets ACA has had since she arrived. She has been hard working, dedicated and extremely knowledgeable about what she does. She communicates extremely well with people and, in a time when being able to communicate facts about agriculture is critical, that quality is invaluable.

If history is any indication of the future, there will be more challenging issues to be faced by the cattle industry. And when those challenges arise, I will call on that group of industry and academic advisors to help me get a pulse on how to best accomplish our task. I cannot say enough about my friends who have had a seat at the table as we have worked through many challenging issues over the years. Any successes over the years that have been credited to the office of the state veterinarian are a reflection of all the different groups that have worked with me to see our goals are accomplished. There is not much I could get accomplished without a lot of help from my friends.

As Erin Beasley takes her seat at the table, I am more than confident that she will do an excellent job. I look forward to working with her as she represents those in the beef cattle industry in our state.

 

Dr. Tony Frazier is the State Veterinarian for Alabama. You can contact him at 334-240-7253.