I don’t envy industry leaders when it comes to dealing with the issues we face and will face in the future. It seems that finding the correct path is a complicated matrix where one tries to identify the science and the “real” risk to the industry, while also anticipating the media reaction and the “perceived” risk that may be created as a result.
The great irony is that the real risk seems to be almost inversely proportional to the media response in any high-profile issue, and the perceived need for urgency. BSE provides an example of where the media overreaction and the opponents of our industry were overwhelming, despite any significant risk in the U.S. Yet, a decade later, we’re just now beginning to regain the market share we lost. The billions of dollars that were pulled out of our industry will never be returned.
Still, in hindsight, the long-term effect of BSE was minor compared to that of the federal government’s subsidization of ethanol. Over time, these subsidies have impacted us much more, forever changing the size and shape of our industry.
The industry has become very good at dealing with a perceived crisis, despite remaining at the mercy of an irresponsible media that seemingly creates as many crises as they legitimately report on. And we also continue to struggle with the daily onslaught from a political process that has a host of industry opponents working tirelessly against us.
While we certainly have to prevent or minimize the effect of the various crises we face, in the end, I would guess our greatest threat isn’t from these large devastating blows. Our greatest threat is the patience of our opponents, who are content to chip away at our industry, one law, one regulation, one line at a time.
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