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R-CALF Schism Spawns New Cattlemen's Group

The beef industry has a new political group. Cattle Buyers Weekly reported in last Friday's edition ( that the deposed and resigned leadership of Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF) has formed an organization called the U.S. Cattlemen's Association (USCA).

Steve Kay reports the new organization is an offshoot of the recent R-CALF power struggle that saw the militant wing of R-CALF oust president Chuck Kiker, as well as board member and cofounder Leo McDonnell.

"This led to other top-level resignations, including those of 15 committee chairs, and R-CALF's entire Washington, D.C., staff," Kay writes. In the aftermath, some groups, including the Independent Cattlemen's Association of Texas, also disaffiliated from R-CALF.

Dennis McDonald, a Melville, MT, rancher and another R-CALF cofounder, told Cattle Buyer's Weekly that 15 former R-CALF committee chairmen and four former directors had agreed to take similar positions in USCA. In addition, a lifetime board seat has been set up for McDonnell, and California rancher John Wooster will be interim president.

The Web site,, which purports to be the work of disillusioned R-CALF members, is chronicling the events and the struggle that led to the schism. It says its mission is to "counter the misinformation and provide the truth to the (R-CALF) members who have committed their time, money and energy to protecting the future of independent cattle producers."

R-CALF provides some counter arguments at

In the March 9 issue of BEEF Cow-Calf Weekly, Troy Marshall commented on industry speculation that the R-CALF implosion would spawn a new industry group -- "What Will R-CALF's Implosion Bring?" The battle was over the organization's vision, with one faction desiring a mainstream organization focused on a wide range of issues, and the other wanting to retain its litigation-obsessed focus on a narrow range of market issues.

With the formation of USCA, former R-CALF membership now has a clear choice on which direction and organization best fits their flavor. In the Cattle Buyers Weekly report, McDonald tells Kay the prevailing view is that most of R-CALF's membership will follow the leadership of the new organization.

-- Joe Roybal