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Berven reflects on his career leading beef producers

By By Jean Caspers-Simmet

Date Modified: 06/03/2010 9:24 AM

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AMES, Iowa — When Bruce Berven took the helm of the Iowa Cattlemen's Association as executive vice president in November 2006, he knew he faced challenges.

"I didn't know the challenges were as extreme as I found them to be," Berven said.

He spent the first few months juggling funds between accounts to make sure checks didn't bounce, trying to have enough money to meet payroll and obtaining lines of credit for emergencies.

"But more quickly than one could have expected, our members stepped forward and said, 'Okay, we'll give you a chance to show us you can manage our finances and be an effective organization,' " Berven said.

As Berven retires at the end of the month, membership is up.

"And what pleases me more than anything is that not only have we had four consecutive balanced budgets, we have restored a considerable amount of reserve funds to deal with emergency issues," he said.

Berven had to cut staff, programs and services.

"We did that carefully, continually communicating with our members as to what services they expected us to provide," Berven said. "Program wise we became smaller, but hopefully we worked a little smarter. I give all the credit to the nearly 10,000 members who said, 'We believe an association is important to us, and we'll hang in there with you.' The turnaround happened more quickly than I believed would have been possible. That's typically how an individual cattle producer operates their own business."

Everything he did was in concert with the elected leadership and board of directors.

"We operated as a team," Berven said. "There were probably times that I wanted to throw the Hail Mary pass, but the leadership said, 'No, we better stick with our business plan and just steadily move forward.' Collectively we've been reasonably successful."

Berven said he often gets credit for a lot of things other staff members were directly involved with. ICA has 10 employees.

"It is at times embarrassing to receive accolades knowing that somebody else's idea or effort went into getting this done," he said. "Again, staff is operating as a team. Everyone has dug a little deeper and worked a little harder."

"Bruce was exactly the right person at the right time," said Kevin Carstensen of Odebolt, who served as ICA president with Berven for two years. "He hit the ground running, and we got the ship righted. We would talk at least five days a week. It was not unusual for him to work weekends. His commitment to ICA and the industry is phenomenal."