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8 August 2010 - Let’s Work Together to Tell Our Story

I am truly troubled this week by what I consider to be a real paradox in American agriculture. Let me explain. On the one hand, I constantly hear from farmers and ranchers who tell me that agriculture must do a better job telling its story to the 98% of the American public not involved in farming and ranching; that agriculture must do a better job of responding to those who attack the industry; that agriculture must speak in a unified voice, because we are one industry. I fully agree.

On the other hand, I hear the infighting, and the time and energy spent fighting each other inside the agricultural industry.

It comes to mind this week because a few days ago I was in Denver attending the Annual Cattle Industry Summer Conference. I thought it was going to be a relatively quiet gathering; turned out to be anything but. It became a very contentious gathering with a lot of nasty words being spoken over a couple of issues, a publicly released audit that questioned the allocation of some check-off funds and then a debate over who should really control the spending of those check-off dollars. As I heard the charges and counter-charges in meeting rooms and hallways, I wondered why we can’t put aside egos and personalities and solve the issues in a civil way without presenting to the public the impression that agriculture is anything but unified.

Now, I understand there are honest disagreements inside general farm organizations and commodity groups, as well as agriculture itself, and it isn’t just the cattle industry. We have seen similar debates in the soybean and pork industry organizations and other commodity groups with check-off programs. I also understand that disagreements will not be solved to everyone’s satisfaction. But when the majority hammers out an agreement, then it’s time to come together for the good of the industry and not run off and form another organization to drain dollars and energy from the goal producers say they want, remember?, “speaking with a unified voice to tell our story”.

I have one more major concern about this cattle war. . . it could jeopardize the beef check-off program that the industry worked so hard to put in place; you may recall it went down in flames twice before finally being approved. Without the program, there’s no question in my mind that beef consumption and beef exports would be nowhere near the level they are today. There would have been no industry response to the Mad Cow Disease threat; there would have been no research to develop new products to attract more consumers to beef; there would have been no organized response to attacks on the industry from radical animal rights and environmental groups.

Let us not jeopardize any commodity check-off because I have seen the positive results of these programs. As I have said many times...”If producers aren’t willing to invest their time and dollars to research and sell their products, then one of two things will happen; it won’t get done at all or it will be done the wrong way by the wrong people.” Let’s settle our family fights and work together.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.