Perhaps it isn’t surprising given today’s record prices, but – as of Thursday morning – attendance at this year’s Cattle Industry Convention has exceeded the all-time high of 6,836 attendees. I always enjoy going to convention, not just because it’s a great place to see people, but because it has a way of illustrating both how much opportunity we have in this industry and the challenges we face.
I’ve always loved the policy side of things, but I’m forever amazed at the number of issues that the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and all of its affiliates are working on. Even more impressive is the amount of time and effort that the volunteer leaders put forth on behalf of the industry.
The extent of regulatory and legislative issues we face is amazing. Whether it’s the death tax, dust regulations, free-trade agreements, transportation, animal welfare issues, food safety, antibiotic use, or hundreds of other issues, there are committees and passionate volunteers working diligently on our behalf.
The attitudes of the attendees present a unique mixture. On the positive side, everyone is excited about the price levels we’re experiencing and generally relieved that the industry has put aside all of the problems threatening the very existence of the checkoff a year ago. On the negative side, input prices, and concerns about whether the industry will expand its numbers back quickly enough to avoid major infrastructure losses are very prevalent.
Preparing for change and transition within the industry have been major themes throughout the meetings thus far, but the overriding theme is about sustainability and profitability in the industry, and finding common ground to make sure we’re doing what’s necessary to position the industry for future success.
In Wednesday’s opening general session, former U.S. Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell recounted his young life of service and experiences as one of the world’s top warriors. The Texas farm kid gave a detailed chronicling of the reconnaissance mission that is the basis of his 2007 chart-topping book entitled “Lone Survivor.” It was a heart-wrenching story of survival against seemingly insurmountable odds, and his take-home message was “never give up” and “never sell yourself short.” It was a spellbinding presentation and a powerful testament to the courage, integrity, patriotism and community that forged these American heroes.
In Thursday morning’s general opening session, the keynote talk was delivered by two well-known pundits – conservative Cal Thomas and liberal Bob Beckel – who together spoke on finding common ground. It was appropriate, not only because the country as a whole is suffering from a partisan divide, but our industry is also riven by division and ideological divides that have, at times, made the best interest of the industry a secondary concern.
While there are certainly those who still want to divide the industry and are dependent upon fomenting internal strife, I get the feeling that the number of people who fall into that category is growing smaller.