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These Are Exciting Times For The Beef Industry

Attending the 2006 Cattle Industry Convention underway in Denver this week, there’s no way to escape the optimism on display in the meeting rooms and hallways of the Denver Convention Center. There’s also no ignoring the need for focused effort to deal with the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities ahead.

In the opening general session, economist/policy expert Barry Asmus delivered a motivational keynote address. An individual with that type of background is sure to furrow a few brows, but if you have the opportunity to read his comments or watch his taped remarks, it would be well worth your time.

I say it would be worthwhile because it’s always worthwhile to be reminded why this business is so special – our bedrock values of faith, family and work. It’s worthwhile to be reminded of the importance of working together, and appreciating the role policy can have on the growth, sustainability and profitability of our industry.

It was good to see actor and beef pitchman, Sam Elliot, stand on the opening-session stage, hear him speak, and realize just how recognizable the phase – “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner.” truly is. It’s humbling to hear of the new product innovations, and the toil of the beef checkoff folks in marketing and promoting our product. It’s also moving to hear of all the battles waged by our state cattlemen’s associations, and their local affiliates, at the local, state and regional levels that seemingly fly under most of our radars most of the time.

Whether it’s the upcoming farm bill debate, food safety, or even the environment, there are activists groups mobilizing against us. I’m thankful to those who commit themselves to being involved on behalf of the industry and step up to shoulder the responsibilities of leadership and activism.

On the negative side, fighting the good fight isn’t enough. As an industry must we continue to win the battles of public opinion and protect our interests, and there’s no escaping the realization we’re both outmanned and outgunned by those with interests contrary to our own.

There are always discussions about leveraging our political might more effectively, and increasing memberships in the local, state and national organizations. Yet, at some point, the industry must embrace the fact the dollars to market and grow beef demand are limited. And, as the rural influence in Washington continues to erode with redistricting and shifts in apportionment, we will have to find new allies.

We’ll also, at some point, have to address the issue of adequate funding. The Australians recently went to a $5 checkoff. With the erosion of our own checkoff’s value do to inflation, the question wilol have to be asked: “Can we continue to not pursue opportunities due to a lack of funding?