The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

April 8, 2012

New Cattlemen's Association head is Limestone native

— At first glance, Donna Jo Curtis may not look like the type of woman who spends time tending to 120 mama cows, several baby calves and five bulls on her farm in the Thatch community.

The 54-year-old blonde mom of three children and grandmother of one, however, has been around cattle all her life. Her dedication to local and state cattle farming interests secured her election on March 31 to the position of president of the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association. She is only the second female to lead the organization.

Curtis served 17 years on the board of directors for the Limestone County Cattlemen’s Association and was county president in 2002 and 2003. She was elected as an ACA regional vice president for a three-year term beginning in 2003. She also serves on the county’s Farm Services Agency board.

She graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with a Bachelor of Science degree  in animal science and lives and works on her 300-acre farm, located just down the road from where she was raised. An active member of the Church of Christ, she and her husband John Curtis host 15 to 25 youth from their church at their farm home on Sunday and Wednesday nights.

Daveen Stanford, secretary of the Limestone County Cattlemen’s Association, is tickled to have her friend of more than 20 years in the role.

“I’m one of her biggest fans, so I can brag on her,” Stanford said. “She is very tuned in to  things that affect North Alabama.”

Curtis said her job duties will require her to be an official spokesperson for the cattle industry and stay on top of issues that affect the industry. She’ll also be responsible for keeping regional vice presidents apprised of issues addressed at the state and national level.

And though she loves being at home, her new position will require her spending more time in Montgomery. She’ll also attend a legislative session in Washington for two weeks and attend a national summer conference in Denver.

“My main job will just be to encourage people to become members (of the ACA),” she said, adding there are many issues affecting cattle revenues but also the way farmers operate.

One of those issues, Curtis said, is the national debate over what is being called “pink slime” by some and “beef filler” by others. She said the lean finely textured beef, or LFTB, is perfectly safe, however. She said another issue of importance is labor laws that restrict children under the age of 16 from working on a farm, unless it’s an immediate family farm.

“The average farmer’s age is 62 or 63, so we have to get some younger people involved,” she said.

Curtis’ own children are following in the footsteps of she and her husband. John Curtis manages the farmer’s co-ops in Limestone County and Giles County, Tenn. Her daughter Lauren Graham is the agri-science teacher at Ardmore High School. The couple’s twins, Landon and Landria Curtis, are majoring in agriculture at Auburn.

“They grew up helping us on the farm,” she said.

Stanford said there are about 503 members of the local Cattlemen’s Association, and gave much of that credit to Curtis. She said you don’t have to own cows to be a member of the group, which also advocates for other issues like property owners’ rights, hunting rights and the humane treatment of cattle.

“Our animals are treated humanely because these are the animals that make our living,” she said.

She also credited Curtis with promoting the industry and beef products, which has helped lead to higher local revenues than some farmers have seen in a while. There are significant challenges ahead, however, including the rising cost of fuel and fertilizer, which has a direct impact on the industry.

“When Walmart has to pay more for what they’re selling, they pass it on to us,” Stanford said. “But she’ll do really well (as president). She can stretch a dollar as far as she can because she knows the profit margin is not always what we put into it.”

For more information about the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association, visit http://www.bamabeef.org.

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