I returned Saturday from the Cattle Industry Convention (aka National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Convention) in New Orleans. This was my first trip to the Big Easy, and I’m glad there were cowboy hats and boots populating the streets to make it seem a little more “friendly.”

I struggle with our industry. I don’t understand how we can be so divided at times, when we are raising the same product and feeding the same consumers.

We seem to disregard sectors of our production chain, and are constantly at each other. Another example of this came to light as I was made aware of another lawsuit being brought forth represented by the same attorney who has filed suit against the Beef Checkoff. This lawsuit deals with medium-size CAFOs (up to 1,000 head of cattle). The special interest groups in the suit (including the Association of Irritated Residents and the Animal Legal Defense Fund) want more environmental regulations for those operating medium-size CAFOs, a move that they feel will damage large packers, but instead will harm family-owned operations.

We have become so tunnel-visioned that some don’t realize that we have the ability to add profit to our own operations – with a little more strategic planning, some niche marketing and utilizing technology.

Instead there is a sector of the industry that has decided to get lawsuit happy and in the long run damages all of us. Knock it off, start acting more like John Wayne and less like Yosemite Sam.

I get asked a lot why am I a member of NCBA? Usually those who ask want to tell me how NCBA is run by packers, and how all they do is steal checkoff money. I relate it to getting into a conversation with a vegan; you aren’t going to change their opinion, so instead just like I do with vegans, I invite them to see first-hand what is occurring.

I can’t change everyone’s mind, all I can do is give my story about what happened at the convention.

The policy side of NCBA is not allowed to use checkoff funds. That is not to be confused with the federation side, which is allowed to use checkoff funds. There are seven committees: Cattle Health and Well-Being; Federal Lands; Agriculture and Food Policy; International Trade; Live Cattle Marketing; Property Rights and Environmental Management; and Tax and Credit. Each committee has a chair and a vice chair whom I’ve gotten to know over the last year. These leaders represent multiple states and multiple types of operations. We are very fortunate to have three of these committees that are chaired by individuals from our own great state. Resolutions and directives are brought forth in these committees by state affiliates or NCBA members. They are then voted on by the members of the committee and then presented to the Resolution Committee (where I serve as chair) to make sure they read well, do not conflict with current policy, and provide a distinct direction for NCBA staff. The following day I present the new policies to the Board of Directors, which is made up of representation from all of the states. They will vote on the new policies, and then after the Summer Business Meeting, the new policies will be sent out to all NCBA members by mail ballot to be voted on. I guess my question is how you can get more grass roots than that?

At the end of the day when someone asks why I am a member, it’s because I don’t have time to be in Washington, D.C., lobbying for our best interest. Instead there is a 138-page policy manual that all NCBA staff members use to represent producers. These policies were written by producers, passed by producers, and forwarded on by producers. Not every policy in there covers my operation as issues vary depending on demographics and concerns, but I do appreciate that NCBA is not a one trick pony, and if things don’t go their way, they don’t team up with anti-agriculture entities and become lawsuit happy.

I know that not everyone wants to become a member of an association, but could have a beef with something an association represents. Maybe what we need to do is take a good hard look at whether our actions are pushing our industry further apart or bringing us closer together.

Jaclyn Wilson is more than a rancher, raising Red Angus cattle at Wilson Ranch near Lakeside, Neb. She’s an artist with a welder’s torch. She holds leadership positions with several agriculture organizations. She can be reached at jaclyn.wilson@midwestmessenger.com.

Jaclyn Wilson raises Red Angus cattle at Wilson Ranch near Lakeside, Neb. Send comments to her at: Jaclyn.Wilson@midwestmessenger.com