This may be an overgeneralization, but the general attitude in the agricultural industry is sullen these days. Commodity prices are down. Inputs are high. Debt loads are climbing. Trade wars create uncertainty. Friction between trade associations is a constant battle. Polarization in politics makes for divisiveness. Rural America is struggling as the next generation moves to urban areas for greater opportunities.
And the list goes on.
Yes, the doom and gloom in this business can bring down even the most optimistic of farming and ranching families.
One thing I’ve noticed is that quite often we tend to point the finger at something or someone else as the cause of our problems.
It’s the packer’s fault I can’t achieve profitability. There are no volunteers to help with our local 4-H club anymore. Donald Trump is meddling in my business. Our consumers just don’t get it. My kids don’t want to work on the ranch.
Perhaps you’ve thought comments like this from time-to-time, and there’s a common theme amongst them all — the blame and burden is placed externally instead of within yourself.
The government, the packer, the trade organizations, the consumer, the media, the system itself — when times are tough, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking the entire system is rigged against you.
And this may trigger a few folks to send me hate mail today, but I’m going to present a little tough love on today’s blog, and I hope you’ll hear me out.
Want to change the trajectory of your ranching enterprise? Want to foster growth and vibrancy in your rural community? Want to spend more time with your family? Want to make more money? Want to influence policy? What to change consumer perceptions about agriculture?
It all starts with you.
Here are my four tips for changing the outcome of whatever challenges you currently face. Take it with a grain of salt. Ignore me entirely. Or perhaps, follow some of this advice to boost your attitude and your bottom line. The choice is yours.
1. Stop complaining
Just like the guy who doesn’t participate in elections but complains about who is voted into office, we can’t just sit around idly complaining about the problems we face in agriculture and rural America. Moaning and groaning on Twitter is an exercise of futility. If you truly think the system or the industry needs an overhaul, then you need a better strategy than yelling into the void and hoping something sticks.
2. Start doing.
Now that you’ve decided to pull up your bootstraps and get to work, it’s time to formulate a plan. What do you want to change and how are you going to make it happen? Failing to plan is planning to fail. What needs to get accomplished to solve the issue you face. Write it down, and let’s start creating a roadmap to get it done.
3. Change is hard.
We aren’t trees rooted in one place. Just because Dad, Grandpa and Great-Grandpa operated one way, and it worked well, doesn’t mean it’s going to work today or in the future. Trust me, that reality stinks! I know the feeling all too well! Hearing how Grandpa bought land for $80/acre and cash-flowed it when today’s pasture prices are completely out of my reach makes me long for yesteryear. But that’s our reality, so what can we do about it?
It’s time to take an honest look at the operation and figure out where you might have become stuck in a rut. What about your operation could you do differently to market your cattle better, earn a premium on your product or cut out the middleman when selling your calves? Sometimes the same-old, same-old needs a shake up, butt change is hard and often it’s easier to gripe about how the old model doesn’t work instead of being a game changer and trying something new.
4. Get involved.
Make sure your voice is heard in an effective way. Run for office. Get on a committee. Join a trade association that best represents you. Write a letter to the editor. Rally the troops to create a feel-good event in your community. Pick up the phone and utilize your network of friends, peers, media and elected officials. Leverage your time, talents and treasures to creating good in the world, and the rewards will come back to you in spades.
5. Have faith.
The cattle business is tough, but cattlemen and women are a resilient, independent lot. Our success or failures lie solely with our abilities to work hard, think smart and adapt to the ever-changing industry and marketplace. God gave us exactly what we need to thrive in this business. He gave us a passion for the land and livestock, and we must do our best to be stewards of His gifts to us. When in doubt, bend your head in prayer and ask God for insights, inspiration and the motivation to overcome whatever life is throwing your way. He is listening, I promise.
What else would you add to this list? I would love to hear your thoughts. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.