PHOTO COURTESY OF OREGON CATTLEMEN'S ASSOCIATION
In early December Bill Hoyt took the lasso as the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association’s new president. Hoyt, a fifth-generation Oregon rancher living near Cottage Grove, has managed his family’s ranch for the past 30 years. He served as president of the Oregon Polled Hereford Breeders and the Douglas County Livestock associations. Now as head of the 97-year-old, 2,000-member advocacy group, Hoyt says he wants to dispel common misconceptions about one of the the state’s largest agricultural commodities.
How has the ranching industry changed in Oregon?
My great-great-grandfather started our ranch in 1852, and I think we have seen increased pressure from population centers. We’re marketing in a different way. The nuts and bolts haven’t changed too much, but how those are applied has changed quite a bit.
What are the biggest challenges to Oregon ranchers today?
I think the largest challenge is to get our message out to the public about what we’re doing right. There are so many misconceptions the public has about what ranchers do and how they do it. Most people think the ranchers are out there mining the natural resources for their own benefit. Nothing could be really farther from the truth. We’re stewards of the wildlife and the water we have on the land.
How will the OCA meet those challenges?
We’ve hired a PR firm to help with producer image. We’ve also commissioned a series of DVDs. We started the first one with a broad-brush view of all the topics. As we’re going along we’re focusing on family ranches and water issues, wildlife issues and stewardship issues. We’ll do [one on] how our people are stewarding public lands and taking better care of them than if they were left to their own devices, or if someone else was doing it. The Pearl District Rotary Club invited me to speak [in December] … Very educational, I think on both sides.
All of the beef that is produced in Oregon is processed in Idaho or Washington. We’ve been involved in talking with ODA about doing some small, regional processing facilities. There are some smaller ones out there but nothing that could handle many hundreds or thousands of heads. If all the [local supermarkets] decided that they would try and have a space on their meat counter for locally raised meat, then the market would drive the need for regional facilities. It’s almost like putting the cart before the horse.
As only the third OCA president to live in western Oregon, do you see a divide between the regions?
There are a lot of people who think there is, but from my standpoint we have all the same issues. The big issue that we do not share is the use of public land. I have to be doubly sensitive about understanding what our members’ issues are when they deal with public lands. Almost everything else in the production of beef is very similar. There is a lot of environmental scrutiny, and our people are very aware of what they have to do to make their coexistence with the BLM and the Forest Service a good one. For the most part you’ll find that the wildlife habitat is enhanced by the presence of cattle grazing. Otherwise you get overgrown with noxious weeds and other issues.
What’s your favorite: burgers or steak?
That’s a matter of personal taste! Medium rare is my personal way I like to eat steak. Right now hamburger … is not a muscle product, so it needs to be cooked a little more.
You grew up in Montana. Any chance of “Cascade Mountain oysters” taking off here?
[Laughs] You know, there are places that sell it. I personally have consumed a great deal of them, but I think that would be a difficult one to sell on a large scale.