John Huston Receives Beef Checkoff Visionary Award
John Huston of Chicago, Illinois, was honored with the Cattlemen’s Beef Board’s third annual Beef Checkoff Visionary Award during the General Session of the 2023 Cattle Industry Summer Business Meeting in San Diego, California. The award recognizes an individual in the beef industry who has demonstrated exemplary support of and commitment to the Checkoff’s goals and vision.
“John has been an important part of the beef industry for decades,” said Jimmy Taylor, 2023 chair of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB). “He had a vision and an energy that made a powerful imprint on the people and processes behind the Beef Checkoff program. John saw the strength of the state beef councils and the importance of having a consistent national Checkoff across all states. He also greatly valued producers and approached his role as their advocate and champion. For these and so many other reasons, John truly deserves the 2023 Visionary Award.”
A native of Roseville, Illinois, John Huston grew up on a general livestock and grain farm. He earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education with an animal science option from the University of Illinois, receiving the Coultas Memorial Award as the college of agriculture’s outstanding senior in 1966. After graduation, Huston became assistant secretary of the National Livestock and Meat Board’s Beef Industry Council (BIC). He was named vice president of the Meat Board in 1969, taking a leave of absence in 1978 to serve as executive director of the Beeferendum campaign for the National Cattlemen’s Association (NCA).
In 1980, following the campaign, Huston was named Meat Board president, and he served in that capacity until the organization merged with the NCA in 1996 to form the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). Huston was inducted into the International Stockmen’s Hall of Fame and named Agri-Marketer of the Year in 1995 by the Chicago Chapter of NAMA. He served as the leader of the NCBA Consumer Marketing Center until 1999, retiring in 2000.
“I’m incredibly honored to receive this award from my peers, colleagues and others who are shaping today’s beef industry,” Huston said. “For 32 years, I was privileged to work for the beef industry with some of the finest, most dedicated leaders in this country. They’re the ones who’ve made the Checkoff a success. The Checkoff isn’t something that happened overnight. It took time to build. I’m gratified to be recognized for the role I played over the years, but all these achievements wouldn’t have happened without strong leadership from volunteer cattlemen and women who served not for compensation, but out of love for the industry.”
Huston’s former employees and colleagues cite his natural leadership abilities, sense of humor, love of the beef industry and knack for unifying diverse groups of people as his most outstanding qualities. Huston was also one of the first beef industry leaders to recognize the value of consumer research and apply that data to create a roadmap, identify trends and work with others to develop programs that answered consumer needs. He was instrumental in creating and implementing the Beef Checkoff’s famous red “check” logo, helping producers across the country identify their dollars at work.
“Certainly, the Beef Checkoff as we know it today wouldn’t exist without John’s tireless efforts spanning more than three decades,” said Greg Hanes, CEO of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board. “John never forgot who he worked for – producers – and he worked hard to build the Beef Checkoff and evolve it into a national program. He was instrumental in creating the first long-range plan, integrating different programs that led to a singular goal. On behalf of everyone at the CBB, I congratulate John on this well-deserved award.”
The Beef Checkoff program was established as part of the 1985 Farm Bill. The checkoff assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products. States may retain up to 50 cents on the dollar and forward the other 50 cents per head to the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board, which administers the national checkoff program, subject to USDA approval.