The 1985 Winner: Jo Ann Smith
Born on May 9, 1939, Jo Ann Doke Smith grew up in Alachua County in a pioneer Florida farming and ranching family. She is a fourth-generation Floridian and has been a champion of agriculture throughout her entire career.
Smith began her working life as an accountant and office manager in the family business, Smith Brothers Farming, Ranching and Construction Companies, in Wacahoota. Not long after, she began to get involved in the larger agricultural community and to take on leadership positions at the local, state and national level. In the 1970s she became a member of the Florida Beef Council, the USDA Animal Technical Advisory Committee on Livestock and Livestock Products, the USDA Foreign Animal Disease Advisory Committee and the USDA Meat Pricing Task Force. From 1970 to 1972, she served as president of the Florida Cattlewomen’s Association.
In 1984 Smith was appointed to the Governor’s Task Force on the Future of Florida Agriculture. As part of the task force, Smith studied the issues affecting the sustainability and viability of Florida’s agriculture industry. She advised and provided direction to the Florida Legislature regarding future laws, programs and funding.
In 1985 Smith became the first female president of the National Cattlemen’s Association, and she is now widely regarded as one of the most effective leaders in the organization’s history. During her tenure she made countless appearances on behalf of the cattle industry before Congress and on national television. She also traveled to Japan and China on successful trade missions to open up Asian markets to U.S. beef imports.
Smith is probably best known as the founding chair of the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board. In this position she spearheaded and developed the highly successful Beef Check-off Program. The marketing program is funded by a mandatory assessment of $1 per head collected each time cattle are sold. Assessments provide about $80 million annually for beef promotion and product development. A national advertising campaign has proven remarkably effective, improving the public’s perception of beef’s nutritional value and bringing about a dramatic rise in demand.
Smith served as assistant secretary for Marketing and Inspection Services of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1989 to 1993. In this position she set policy direction and managed multiple agencies under the jurisdiction of the USDA. She brought to the office an atmosphere of openness and professionalism and proved herself to be a woman of action on behalf of agriculture. Her leadership role on issues such as groundwater quality, rural development and animal welfare regulation had an impact on all farmers and consumers in Florida.
Smith has represented Florida agriculture both nationally and internationally, serving on the corporate boards of some of the world’s largest agriculture-related companies. She is a past director of Iowa Beef Producers and Purina Mills and currently serves on the board of Tyson Foods. As a board member she is respected for her knowledge, experience and personal integrity.
Smith’s leadership in the agriculture industry has earned her many awards and honors. In 1982 and again in 1988, she was named Man of the Year in American Agriculture by Progressive Farmer magazine. In 1992 she received a Good Government Award from the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association, and an Outstanding Contributions to American Agriculture Award from the National Agricultural Editors Association. In 1985 she was selected Woman of the Year in Agriculture by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Smith lives in Micanopy with her husband, Cedrick. They have two grown children, Marty and Terri.