Cattlemen of the Year - Jeff Menges
The recipient of the Cattleman of the Year award was born in Morenci, a small mining town in Greenlee County. As a fourth-generation rancher growing up in the cattle industry, he worked alongside his family in southwestern New Mexico as cattle operations were purchased, improved, and then sold. He graduated from Cliff High School and attended New Mexico State University where he double-majored in Range Science and Animal Science. After receiving these degrees, he returned to Greenlee County and partnered with his parents on the Four Drag Ranch. He soon established his cow-calf operations and built them into profitable and respected businesses. Always a forward-thinking individual, he has learned to balance traditionally effective management practices with today’s progressive innovations that improve efficiency and profitability.
This man is no stranger to public service and has served the beef industry in an impressive number of local, state, and national organizations. In the mid-eighties, he was elected President of the Greenlee County Cattle Grower’s Association. He then served as a member of the BLM Resource Advisory Council and the Governor’s Rangeland Advisory Committee. Since 1990 to the present time he has been the treasurer of the Safford District Rangeland Advisory Steering Committee. He was president of the Arizona Cattle Grower’s Association in 2001-2003. He has also been on the board of the Arizona Cattle Industry Foundation. He is active in the Cochise-Graham County Cattle Growers’ Association. He was appointed to the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association’s Board of Directors in 2014 and continues in that position.
At the national level, he served as the Chairman of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s Federal Lands Committee from 1996-1998 and then again from 2007-2009. In 2010 he was elected to the position of Region VI Vice-President for Policy for NCBA. Through these roles in various organizations, he is known for his independent thinking, his common sense, and his representation of the boots-on-the-ground member out in the country.
In 1998, with assistance from ACGA, he challenged a US Fish and Wildlife Biological Opinion that eliminated grazing on over 15 miles of riparian areas on his BLM allotments. The Service claimed that grazing should be removed from the area because it was a “potential” habitat for endangered species. After a hard-fought court battle, both the US District Court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in his favor. The landmark case has set a valuable precedent for public lands ranchers and has been cited numerous times. This experience, along with his extensive understanding of federal and state policies and regulations related to the cattle industry, has allowed this lifelong advocate for public lands ranching to be a valuable resource to fellow ranchers facing similar situations.
Because of his outstanding reputation as a hard worker and effective leader, he has been recognized for his dedication over the years. He has received the Excellence in Grazing award from the Society of Range Management, the Greenlee County 4H Leader of the Year award, the Outstanding Service Award from the Safford FFA chapter, and the Honorary Arizona State FFA Degree.
Our award winner has been especially influential in supporting the next generation of ranchers, a role he enjoys very much. He was the Chairman of NCBA’s Youth Activities Task Force which provided valuable beef-related learning experiences for youth from across the country at the annual convention. As an outstanding livestock judge himself in both high school and college, he developed and ran the Task Force’s livestock judging contest which attracted hundreds of young people from all over the United States to the NCBA convention. Putting together a national competition was a natural undertaking for our recipient, as he has volunteered countless hours to coach local livestock judging teams of both the FFA and 4H programs. In fact, in just ten years of coaching livestock judging, his teams have won five FFA state championships, three 4-H state championships, and in three years placed as the state FFA state runner-up team. As his commitment to youth programs was recognized, he was selected to serve on the Arizona FFA Foundation’s Board of Directors in 2015.
This is a man of high integrity, strong values, unwavering determination, and selfless service. He is the father of 3 sons, a husband of 30 years, and an extraordinary individual. - Submitted by the Menges family