OKEECHOBEE — Okeechobee’s Matt Pearce was elected 2019-20 Florida Cattlemen’s Association (FCA) president at the FCA convention and allied trade show in Marco Island on June 18.
Mr. Pearce joins a distinguished list of past FCA presidents who were born in or hailed from Okeechobee such as Woody Larson, Jim Alderman, Wes Williamson and Mike Milicevic.
Outgoing FCA President Alex Johns was also born in Okeechobee.
“I am very humbled to serve as your new FCA President,” said Mr. Pearce in his first official message to FCA members. “My family has a long history in the cattle industry in Florida and a very deep-rooted heritage in the Florida Cattlemen’s Association. My great-grandfather John Olan Pearce Sr. was one of the original men that traveled to Tallahassee in 1934 to lobby for private property rights, flood control and cattle disease eradication. These men were instrumental in the formation of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association that same year.”
In the past Mr. Pearce has served in the FCA as Okeechobee County president and a state director as well as a member of the FCA executive committee.
“My three children are all actively involved in our ranching enterprise,” continued Mr. Pearce. “Taylor, a University of Florida animal science graduate, is now entering her master’s program at Oklahoma State University this fall; Chandler, a sophomore at the University of Florida is majoring in animal science, and; Aubrey is a senior at Okeechobee High School as well as a member of the Junior Future Cattleman’s Association board of directors.”
Mr. Pearce laid out the goals he hopes to accomplish during his time as president. One was a continuation of challenge issued to FCA members by his predecessor Alex Johns. Then-President Johns asked cattlemen to be more active in telling their stories on social media by posting pictures of themselves and their ranches with the hashtag “show your passion.” He believed those posts would help emphasize the importance of the cattle industry and the farming industry as a whole. Mr. Pearce encouraged cattlemen to continue telling their stories by sharing their heritage through social media, school, civic events and everyday contact with people.
Other goals mentioned by Mr. Pearce included making sure cattlemen have more representation in the political sphere.
“Our industry has been challenged in the political arena,” explained Mr. Pearce, “and the fact remains that very few of our legislators have an agriculture background. Our job will be to find those members or friends that have that agriculture background and encourage them to run and serve in the future legislature.”
Mr. Pearce also said the FCA needs to continue to educate and promote conservation easements such as Florida Forever and the Rural & Family Lands Program, as those easements are a great tool in protecting the Florida ranching landscape.
“I would like to look back to a few years ago when I got separate phone calls from Woody Larson, Wes Williamson and Bert Tucker asking me to consider serving as an officer of this great organization that we call the Florida Cattlemen’s Association,” concluded Mr. Pearce. “This opportunity has allowed me to advocate for my heritage and passion for the cattle industry, and I hope that we have a successful upcoming year.”