The debate that raged not that long ago between R-CALF  and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association  almost seems like a distant memory today. It just hasn’t dominated industry meetings or conversation for quite some time.
But while some of the pain and angst may have subsided, raw feelings still linger. Before the episode totally disappears into the annals of history, I think it makes sense to look back and make sure that the industry doesn’t inflict such damage upon itself again in the future.
We all know there will never be unanimity of opinion among cattlemen. Thus, the question becomes one of how can we more effectively deal with disagreements. The partisan nature of the national political landscape  has proven that a democracy can alienate and divide if the minority isn’t respected and the concept of compromise isn’t entertained.
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Such responsibility may rest more on the majority than the minority. After all, it’s not just a function of counting votes and determining whether the margin is a small one. Even if the vote comes down to 80% to 20%, the wishes of that 20% must be considered if that minority is truly passionate about the issue . However, the minority also must bear responsibility to accept the vote once taken and ride together for the brand.
It’s also important for both sides to maintain proper decorum during debate, and work to avoid the animosity that can lead to competing camps meeting in different rooms. There is a vast difference between discussing differences in an honest manner vs. conducting propaganda campaigns to persuade others to adopt a certain view rather than find common ground.
Some of the healing that’s occurred hasn’t been the result of industry actions but simply that the passion over a couple of high-profile issues hasn’t transferred into a broader mandate for the minority organization. Basically, instead of bringing everyone back under the same tent, the industry just bided its time until one tent collapsed. Make no mistake that the wounds were deep and perhaps nothing but time will heal them, but the cost to the industry  of such division has been extremely high.
The differences in viewpoint between the two competing camps regarding the role of government and free-market economics  – were significant, real and admittedly irreconcilable. But the fact is that all industry players are in basic agreement on the other 99% of issues. The great lesson is that while democracy is an imperfect system, it is preferable to going to war.
The opinions of Troy Marshall are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or the Penton Farm Progress Group.
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