Friday, September 26, 2008

Rural America awakens like a bear

All of sudden the masses are energized and others seemed to be amazed. I have been reluctant to write about political candidates because it seems as though most media outlets can’t find anything better to talk about but this is one I just cannot let pass. Sarah Palin from small town Alaska has wound up the nation and not just part of it. I am talking about most all of the nation and I know that because I am on the list serve of some of the most liberal activists in the country and they are indeed as keyed up as the conservatives. To sum it up in three words, they hate her and I love it. On the other side of the equation, the media is reporting that the conservatives of the country are excited too and that same media acts as if they didn’t know any conservatives still existed.

In fact, the Washington Post has reported in near disbelief that someone could think like this electrical engineer from Virginia. David Willis said, "Hearing her pro-life stance, her conservative values, her family orientation -- it has really resonated with the proletariat and caused people to say: 'Hey, I'm going to get involved here. This is someone I can relate with; this is someone that can win”.

For me personally, I like her as the VP selection for two reasons. First, she obviously values human life. The biggest challenge in the value system of our society today is that too many want to value the life of a dog, a car or some material possessions equal to or above that of humans beings. That is wrong and I see a person willing to say it publicly, not only with words but also with actions in her life.

Second, she can relate to the everyday citizen that has not had representation in our country’s capital for far too long. Critics say she doesn’t have enough experience. I say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Only one media outlet has carried the whole story about her acceptance speech that propelled her into the nation’s conscience. At the beginning of her speech, her teleprompter was dysfunctional and we as viewers couldn’t even notice that she was flying without the words in front of her. If fact, the one line that may help elect John McCain President of the United States was not even in her script but she ad libbed it to fill time until teleprompter could catch up. That famous line: “Do you know the difference between a hockey mom and a pitbull?….Lipstick.”

The most irritating reporting about Palin’s speech began as soon as she concluded. I was initially watching the broadcast on PBS but had to switch to ABC because the government-run station couldn’t get the audio to match the video and it was too frustrating to watch. Leave it to our government to screw that up. Diane Sawyer commented that Palin was, “apparently attempting to politically motivate the small town rural communities as she obviously appealed to them.” This is the point that urban Americans don’t get: People from rural America don’t do things just for political gain. We do them because they are the right thing to do, we are proud of what we have, we are proud of the small, rural communities that we call home. It is not just another place that we stop along the way as we get transferred up the pay scale within a company. We are proud people and we don’t need teleprompted scripts in order to convey that passion.

I must add that I am proud of another woman who spoke at the convention on that same night. Carolyn Dunn, a farm wife from St. John, KS., set the stage for Mrs. Palin by addressing the entire GOP convention where she talked about the need to maintain domestic food production. She also greatly emphasized the need to retain our young people in rural communities. For far too long, our rural communities have been viewed as the “fly over region” as people shuttle from coast to coast for their seemingly important business. Now we have a couple of ladies from rural America, displaying such a pride in rural America, that most cannot even relate to it or understand where it comes from. But I am here to tell you that the only way we get our young people excited about the opportunity to raise their families in rural America is if we wear our pride on our sleeves everywhere we go.

For me, one person seems to understand the rights that we as American citizens have earned. One person seems to value human life and sees the resources of our nation that benefit human life only if we utilize those resources. One person seems to understand that with passion and faith as your motivation, you can accomplish what others may have given up on. One person seems to have awoken a hibernating bear that didn’t think about the changes that were happening around us.

Now a flashback to the State of the Union Address that was given on December 2, 1806. One of nations first Statesmen said, “Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories”.

Remember that on November 4, 2008 you will be the one person that decides who most closely follows the vision of our founding fathers, including Thomas Jefferson.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

If it is to be it is up to me

We have just had one of those great days on the ranch working cattle that makes it all worth it. Kelli and I and our three daughters, operating off the tailgate of the pickup, worked calves through the portable corral and gave pre-weaning shots. It was one of those rare perfect days, weather and all, and so in celebratory fashion we sat down together to enjoy a big, juicy cheeseburger, fries and corn from the garden. Come to think of it, I don’t remember many cattle-working days that were not followed with burgers and fries, frequently at our local steakhouse. The funny thing is that at the very same time, executives in major cities around the country are meeting in some of nation’s high-end restaurants and ordering $44 dollar Prime steaks. I don’t believe we are much different than any other ranching family by eating the all the beef, from ribs to ribeyes and plenty of ground beef, while the big shots eat only the most expensive.

The thing is we enjoy about days like that one are the cattle portion of the beef business and I believe that is another trait we share with other cattle owners. The problem is that unless we start to understand what it is that high end user needs to know and we learn how to get that information to them, I fear we will lose some of the value of the beef from the cattle we enjoy.

This long, drawn out story about our day does have a point. Just before we headed to the yard to work the cattle, I learned that the operating committee for the Cattlemen’s Beef Board met last week in Nashville and decided not the fund the American National Cattlewomen’s Beef Ambassador program. I have volunteered to work with these kids for the past five years and the progress that I have seen in each team, from the time they start until they finish, was simply unbelievable. I have also witnessed them in their element, taking on meatless agendas and the people behind them. The time spent with the program and the kids has led me to believe that it is the best investment we make with beef check-off dollars.

I fully understand that when you are attempting to allocate funds and your funds have been cut by $7 million, you must do things that you don’t want to do. But the truth of the matter is that we all make choices based on our priorities each and every day. You can do anything that you have a commitment to, if you so choose. The Beef Ambassador program has been operating on $118,000 annually. To think that you could train and support five young beef producers on this meager budget and use them to make over 20 million impressions on consumers about the importance of the beef industry is just hard to even imagine and yet that is exactly what they have done.

You and I are part of the problem here. One area that saw the smallest amount of cut in the budget for 2009 was producer education. Did you know that they have once again authorized $2 million dollars to do nothing but tell cattle producers what the check-off actually does to help cattlemen? Granted, if some money wasn’t spent on this education program, we would have an even bigger wreck in regard to cattlemen understanding the value of the research, development and promotion of the beef products we produce.

So here is where I circle back to where I started. I do understand the joys and rewards of sitting in the saddle and rounding up the cattle. I get that sense of satisfaction in administering animal health products to provide for the health well-being of my cattle. But at the end of the day if we are not educating our consumers, that person in the high end restaurant will not see the value in a $44 dollar piece of prime beef. More importantly, college kids will continue their trend of eliminating meat from their diets completely. Or soccer moms will choose a plant-based product for their kids because they just read in Time magazine that our consumption of beef is causing global warming.

For some reason, our industry leaders don’t believe grass-roots initiatives like the Beef Ambassadors are effective at reaching our consumers and instead we need professional “agency” people. Well, I couldn’t disagree more. First of all, what agency will even look at you for $118,000? None. Secondly, what happened to the old cliché of “pride of ownership”? “Local” food is all the rage and consumers are encouraged to get to know the people that produce the food they buy. Consumers now want to hear from the person who tends to the animals and protects the environment. Instead of giving them what they want and introducing them to our great stewards of natural resources and providers of great products, we have decided it is better, or maybe just easier, to let a third-party be the voice for our producers.

I believe it is time we step up and take a stand for the future of our industry, forget about the Beef Board operating committee and take this matter into our own hands. We have a group of women that have dedicated thousands of hours of effort into training the future leaders of our industry at the state, local and national level. We have a program in place that makes 20 million media impressions, 115,000 consumer impressions and 24,000 student impressions in just one year. Most of these kids are far better spokesmen and much more in-tune with consumers than the good old boys that gather for coffee every morning and cuss about the markets. It’s time the Beef Ambassador program gets the support it deserves. I urge you to contact any member of the American National Cattlewomen or go to their website ( and do what you can to support this great program. Your contributions can be mailed to ANCW, PO Box 3881, Englewood CO 80155. Be sure to put Beef Ambassador in the memo. Our donations will be the best investments we can make to help preserve the future of the industry that we love.