One of the great things I love about our industry is the diversity.
Take a moment, and really stop and think about it. The sector is divided into numerous specialties. There are the cow-calf producers, the stockers, the backgrounders, the feedlot guys, seedstock producers, the packers, and the list goes on and on.
Each sector has something different and unique that they bring to the table, yet each is as important as the next. Each is also dependent for the most part in some form on the others, which is something I think we seem to forget at times.
I was in Denver last week for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Summer Conference. I have served as chairwoman of the resolutions committee for the last two years, and my term expired this last week. To explain a little how the committee works is that NCBA is made up of two different sides: the policy and the federation. The policy side focuses literally on that, policy. The federation side works in collaboration with the Cattlemen’s Beef Board to help determine where checkoff funding is used. The sides are not allowed to cross over. Policy has nothing to do with checkoff and checkoff has nothing to do with policy.
I got involved in NCBA when I was in college. I attended my first annual convention, which also happened to be in Denver. At that convention I was in the trade show only, as I was helping man a cattle association booth. I did not know on the other side of those trade show doors that there were a number of cattlemen and cattlewomen who were working together to pass policy and make decisions to help influence the direction of the industry.
I got involved in leadership on kind of a whim as I had attended a meeting of what was then known as the Young Producer’s Council. It was a meeting that really did change my life. I was able to progress through the leadership of my respective committee to the point of where I am today.
The resolutions committee works like this: Policy is brought forward through the state affiliates, it is discussed and if passed in the respective committee is then brought to the resolutions committee, where we will read over the policy, correct any errors in wording, make sure there is no conflicting policy, and make the layout consistent with policy that is already on the books. The chairperson of the committee will then take the policy to the board of directors meeting, where it will be read and approved or disapproved by the board, which is made up of producer representatives from every state. Upon board approval, it will be then sent out to the membership to be voted on. If passed, it becomes new policy for the organization and gives direction to the Washington, D.C. staff.
As I got to understand the procedures better over the years, it’s one I’ve come to appreciate for its thoroughness. The policy book is very diverse, representing over 100 different resolutions and directives that cover everything from animal disease to public policy issues.
With COVID-19, the summer conference had a different layout. What usually spans several days was pushed into two. Social distancing and virtual participation were a huge part of the convention, but the real fireworks did not occur until the second day.
One of seven committees on the policy side is the Live Cattle Marketing Committee. Unless you have been living under a rock the last couple of months, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that we have seen some pretty significant issues within our supply chain. Now, I’m not going to sit here and bash different sectors of the industry — because as I mentioned above, we are all dependent on each other — but I will say that yes, things need to change, and no, it’s not going to be a quick fix or an easy one.
A couple of resolutions were brought forward by different states to rework policy. The main resolution was co-sponsored by 20-some cattle producing states, but it should be noted that even in some cases, affiliates that were in the same state did not agree with the solution. What happened next was probably one of the greatest things I’ve seen within our industry since I’ve been involved.
There were six hours of discussion, taking multiple resolutions and tearing them apart, taking pieces from one and putting it into another. There was compromise and discussions that got emotional and were hard hitting. Yet at the conclusion, one resolution was brought to my committee on price discovery. Will it fix everything? It’s hard to tell, but I will say this, I knew almost every single individual that stood up that day, and I have never been prouder of a group of cattlemen and cattlewomen. No, everyone did not agree, and that was OK, but what did happen was they worked it out and came to a consensus. It was really the first time since all the market debacle that I have truly felt that we may just be OK.
I don’t care what group you belong to, or if you even belong to one. What I do care is that for all of the mudslinging and badmouthing that has happened over the last couple of months that people can still rise above it and try and make the world just a little bit better. For that I’m grateful.