Summer conventions and mid-year conferences are just around the corner. These meetings inspire me, and I’m always amazed to witness just how much effort and self-sacrifice volunteer leaders are willing to invest on behalf of their industry and other producers.
Some of these leaders are created out of necessity. If you run cattle on public lands, ranch in an area under threat as habitat for a protected species, or find yourself in the crosshairs of EPA or some other regulatory agency, your survival could be at stake. This forces many producers to get involved and active, and they recognize there is strength in numbers that speak with a unified voice.
A majority of these volunteer leaders, however, get involved because they want to help and to give back. And then there is the financial support provided by many producers who, for whatever reason, can’t devote as much personal time but support the effort by writing sizable checks every year to underwrite the process. Yes, both volunteer effort and money are critical to the fight, and I’d be hard pressed to say which is more crucial.
On the other side of the equation, unfortunately, are those who don’t do either – they choose to neither volunteer time nor money, and just count on the fact that others who do will take care of them.
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So we end up with two classes of producers. There are those relatively few who expend precious time and resources for the benefit of their industry. And then there’s the majority who reap the benefits but don’t bear any burden or cost. This is a decision every rancher faces – how much time and resources does one invest in the industry vs. their own personal operation? After all, the two things that are finite on any operation are time and dollars.
I think we all need to keep in mind the tremendous range of issues that our industry must deal with on a daily basis. Without the industry volunteers and dedicated staffs and associations who work on our industry’s behalf, I can’t help but think we would have been regulated or legislated out of business a long time ago.
I think it’s easy to do the math, and the checkoff provides a great example. For every dollar invested, the industry has gained about $6 back. And I’ll never forget a comment made to me by one industry leader in Iowa after the heroic response that the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) had planned and implemented after the outbreak of BSE in 2003. That plan literally kept the U.S. industry from suffering the kind of collapse that decimated other countries’ beef industries upon the discovery of BSE. This producer told me that the response to BSE alone repaid every dollar he had ever spent or would spend with NCBA, and he considered all the other issues NCBA was working as just icing on the cake.
I think many producers ponder the question of how much time they can afford to spend working on improving the overall industry environment vs. working on the individual operation. I think the real question isn’t how much I can afford to invest in the industry, but whether I’m willing to run the risk of not investing in the future of my industry? That’s why I love these meetings, because they’re usually stocked with people who have decided to put the industry first, and have figured out that it’s an investment that pays.
The opinions of Troy Marshall are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or the Penton Farm Progress Group.
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