Building for the Future – Q&A with President Mike Veeman
Mike Veeman is a fifth-generation dairyman who, as President, brings the knowledge and experience of a lifetime of animal husbandry to Colorado Livestock Association. Mike began his career in California on his family’s dairy farm, which was relocated to Colorado in the early 1980’s. Alongside his father Andy and his brother Derek, Mike has worked to expand the family’s partnership. Veeman & Sons Dairy is located in Wiggins, Colorado. The family also maintains a ranch outside of Sterling, which is home to both farming and heifer operations.
Beyond his title of “dairyman”, Mike is also a passionate family man. He shares his life with Cindy, his wife of 36 years. They have three children including two married daughters and a son who has returned to the farm to carry the family’s business into the sixth generation. Mike is also a proud Papa to five grandchildren. Mike will serve as President for two years until the CLA Annual Membership Meeting in April of 2020 at which time he will become the Immediate Past President.
What, in your opinion, is the greatest benefit of membership in the Colorado Livestock Association (CLA)?
I am focused on our cows, our employees and the business, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Like my peers in the livestock industry, I do not have the time or resources to dedicate to representing my regulatory and legislative interests. The work that CLA does on behalf of livestock agriculture is vital to our farm and to preserving it for future generations.
As a result of our consistent and steadfast approach to dealing with issues, the Colorado Livestock Association enjoys a high level of respect in the legislative and regulatory arenas in Colorado. CLA is at the table on every issue that could impact agriculture. When it comes time to testify or participate in a stakeholder process we have expertise among our ranks that allow us to be effective.
What do you see as the most important role of the Colorado Livestock Association?
The challenges that the livestock industry faces can change in a blink of an eye and new issues are always on the horizon. As an Association we have evolved to better handle these issues and we remain flexible to adapt to the ever-changing environment. CLA is constantly working to foster and build relationships with the people who legislate and regulate our industry.
A tremendous amount of resources are focused behind the scenes to head off emerging issues and intercept an issue before it surfaces. It is critical that the Association strive to maintain its existing relationships, while continuing to build new ones.
Compared to livestock groups in other states, CLA represents all sectors of the livestock industry. Why do you believe this is a benefit to the overall industry?
Regardless of what type of livestock you raise we are more alike than we are different. We face the same regulatory and legislative issues. Whether we are dealing with environmental regulation, animal welfare issues or water, we all have a shared interest.
As a multi-species organization, we benefit from a diverse outlook and when it comes down to it, we set our differences aside to move forward for the common good. As a result, we represent the industry with a strong and unified voice. Without this diverse coalition of livestock producers our industry would not be where it is today and would not have the bright future that I believe we have.
What should CLA do to ensure that future livestock producers understand the importance of Colorado Livestock Associations efforts?
CLA has a rich and deep history. We need to share the stories about where we came from and how we got here with the next generation and with producers who are new to our state.
At the end of your term as President of CLA, when you look back at the previous two years what do you hope to be our greatest accomplishment?
We have narrowed our focus to legislation and regulation and we have developed pinpoint accuracy on issues. I intend to ensure that we continue to focus on these issues and foster relationships with legislators and regulators.
Since its inception in 1998, CLA has not developed a formal succession plan. The Board of Directors believe that it is critical to the future of the Association to have a plan in place to facilitate a seamless transition of our Executive Officer. We have formed a Succession Planning Workgroup which will be chaired by President-Elect Dwain Weinrich and includes CLA members Britt Dinis, Mike Thoren, Steve Gabel and Tom Haren. With the establishment of this Workgroup we have begun this important process.
History has a way of repeating itself. If you had the opportunity to help guide future generations of livestock producers by learning from your own mistakes what would you tell them?
Time has a way of slipping away from us. When we are young we make the mistake of assuming that we will live forever, and we tend to put things off and procrastinate. Early on, figure out what’s important to you and remain focused.
What was the most difficult day for you on the dairy and what did you learn from it?
In 2001, there was a Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak in the United Kingdom and over 6 million cattle and sheep were destroyed. I remember watching CNN and seeing the farmers watch their entire life’s work literally go up in flames. The empathy that I felt for them was overwhelming and it made me realize how vulnerable we are.
What has had the greatest influence on your career?
Five generations have influenced everything we are doing today. I am motivated by the struggles and sacrifices of the family who came before me.
Mike Veeman was elected President of Colorado Livestock Association at the Annual Membership Meeting in April 2018 and will serve in this role until the CLA Annual Meeting in April of 2020.