All the grassroots pressure that has been exerted regarding the rift between NCBA and the Cattlemen’s Beef Board at least led to the two sides having some constructive discussion and a structured dialogue. NCBA and CBB officers met this week in Denver and were able to sit across a table from one another and talk.
They agreed, among other things, that it is important that each recognize the other’s role and that they work together; that the checkoff program staff is doing a great job and have developed excellent programs but that staff at the executive level have some improvements to make in their relationships; that NCBA needs to work harder to make everyone feel welcome at industry meetings; that a more clear understanding of the compliance process needs to be developed; and that NCBA will continue to be a checkoff contractor.
Admittedly, I remain in the cynic camp. Reading the emails that have been exchanged and learning how one-sided the communication has been in some areas, I’m not sure that honest communication is the goal, but hopefully I am wrong. Much of the rhetoric is couched in terms of the checkoff but in the end, there are groups and leadership opposed to NCBA policy, and groups and leadership supportive of NCBA’s longstanding role with the checkoff.
Ultimately, this is a debate about whether or not the checkoff is to become a political tool. Sadly, if that is what it proves to be, it will not survive as structured. As one leader active in the process told me, cattlemen can get caught up in personal agendas but in the end, they always do what it is right. I suspect this time will be no different, we just need to take steps to ensure that the checkoff is not used as a political tool and remains focused on building beef demand as efficiently as possible.
Looking back over the recent past, it is clear that the checkoff has enjoyed success—the state beef councils continue to do great work and producers understand the importance of the checkoff now more than ever. It is hard to believe we have taken the checkoff to the brink of its survival with so much good going on. That is why I believe the games will stop and we will get back to building demand, as long as grassroots producers make it known that they will accept no less.