Many industry leaders can be heard commenting these days about how nice it would be if the industry would focus on important issues and quit wasting valuable political capital and time fighting among themselves. Nobody can argue about the validity of this line of thinking, but honestly I don’t see it happening.
Sure, a resolution of the GIPSA rules controversy will quiet things down, just like the lull that occurred after mandatory country of origin labeling was settled. But a new issue will undoubtedly emerge and expose what is increasingly looking like an irreconcilable divide within the industry.
The harsh reality is that while something might be good for the industry as a whole, it may not be good for individual participants. Plus, new methods, new technologies and new ideas aren't always welcomed by certain segments.
I read an article this week about the decreasing value of cornstalks and how improved machinery and harvesting techniques have halved the amount of corn left in fields after harvest. It seems that improved genetics have produced plants that put less into the stalks and more into the ears – all great things if you're a corn farmer but bad news if you're leasing cornstalks to graze.
Improved cattle genetics are a wonderful thing, and nobody can remain competitive without utilizing modern genetics. But without increased demand, these increases in cow efficiency have resulted in fewer cows and a smaller industry. I’ve heard a similar argument made by some regarding implants; if everyone would agree to forgo the efficiency improvements made by such technology, then we might be better off, they contend. But just as you can't put toothpaste back into the tube, we'll always have those who embrace change and benefit from it, and those who resist it and want to legislate it away.
Nor is the rate of change in our industry expected to subside. Rather, it will accelerate and that means the divisions within our industry will likely only grow deeper.
Increasing competition may mean more winners but it also means more losers. Increased competition also means that winning becomes more difficult. Just take a look at the level of competition in college football. It could be argued quite easily that the three most dominant teams of this decade were Florida, Texas and USC, all of which closed out the decade with subpar and mediocre seasons. I love reining horses, and while there were great horseman and great horses 20 years ago, the winning runs back then wouldn’t even make the finals today.
The situation today all equates to more uncertainty, more incentive to bend the rules, and ultimately more conflict as people look to preserve their position. During good economic times the differences may not seem as large but they are still there.
-- Troy Marshall