For more than 60 years, the Alabama Cattlemen's Association (ACA) has promoted the business of raising cattle in Alabama, livestock-related activities for young people, and the advertising of beef to consumers. Founded in Demopolis in 1944, the ACA has become the largest state cattlemen's association in the nation, with more than 12,000 members and chapters in each of the state's 67 counties. The ACA is affiliated with the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, which represents the nation's cattle producers.
The ACA is governed by a board of directors, which includes the president of each of the 67 county chapters in the state, as well as the state officers, past state presidents, and lifetime directors. These board members represent all segments of Alabama's beef industry, including purebred producers, commercial cow-calf producers, and stocker-backgrounders (people who raise cattle to feedlot age). Volunteer leaders at the county and state level meet four times a year to make decisions for running the organization. A 10-person staff administers the organization; the ACA headquarters, built with funds from cattle-producer donations, is located in downtown Montgomery. The building houses the Alabama Livestock Hall of Fame, Alabama Junior Cattlemen's Association, and the Southeastern Livestock Exposition. An Appreciation Hall on the third floor contains histories and memorabilia from more than 70 Alabama cattle families. In addition, a children's education center, called The MOOseum, teaches thousands of school children each year about the cattle industry and beef production.
The ACA has been successful over the years in serving the needs of the state's cattle producers. In 1999, the association played a key role in passing a $52 million Agricultural Bond Initiative to fund research and construction of new classroom and research facilities in agriculture-related areas and upgrade existing ones at Auburn University and Alabama A&M University, as well as to fund a new State Diagnostic Center at Auburn. ACA's nearly two-decade effort from the late 1970s to the 1990s helped strengthen the university's animal science programs in teaching, extension, and research. Today, the association works to advocate for research and extension programs on issues faced by cattle producers in the state. The association also worked successfully with volunteer leaders and a range of media resources in addressing public concerns surrounding the discovery of a cow infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad-cow disease. Indeed, media relations and public outreach is one of the primary functions of the ACA. The association serves as the voice of the state's $3 billion beef cattle industry and provides a monthly magazine, The Alabama Cattleman, to its members.
In addition, the ACA represents all of the state's cattle producers through a special self-help assessment program. Cattle producers contribute to the beef check-off fund when they sell cattle, and this money helps fund a state-national program that promotes beef through advertising and public relations ventures. The fund also sponsors research and education programs that enhance the long-term viability of the cattle industry. Included in this effort are programs focusing on urban and rural youth aimed at developing the foundation of future generations of beef producers and beef consumers.
The ACA sponsors and administers the Southeastern Livestock Exposition (SLE), one of the largest annual livestock events in Alabama, which in 2008 celebrated its 50th anniversary. The event, held each March, includes a rodeo sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, cattle and horse shows, and statewide competition involving cattle exhibitions and a "Beef Quiz Bowl" for 4-H and Future Farmers of America members. The SLE brings 30,000 to 40,000 visitors to Montgomery each year.
The ACA, through its foundation, has funded college scholarships for hundreds of high-achieving students who are generally the children and grandchildren of those involved in Alabama's livestock industry. The source of funding comes from individual contributions and from the sale of the Alabama Cattlemen's Association car tag. Established in 1992, to date the program has awarded more than $350,000 in scholarships.