Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Cowboys converge on San Antonio and Beef leadership status quo no more

As submitted to the High Plains Journal for Feb 7, 2015 edition. Link
Beef leadership status quo no more
As I have said before, we are at the most important crossroads in the history of American Agriculture. For beef producers in particular, we continue to lose the battle yet I don't see us developing any alternative strategies. As the old saying goes, if you keep doing what you've always done, you'll keep getting what you've always gotten.

It's time for something new, visionary and pro-active. The cattle industry convention is taking place in San Antonio, TX right now and I wonder who there will be asking the tough questions that really deserve answers if we hope to get beef in the forefront.

Yes, we are members of the Nebraska and National Cattlemen's Beef Associations. 

While I have serious concerns about leadership and direction, I still have faith that a grassroots membership organization is the right approach to achieving what's best for the industry. I am using this platform to ensure that our opinion as members is being heard and the decisions are coming from the members and not from the top down.

By the time you read this, news reports will be coming from the Alamo that suggest a record number in attendance for the convention. But who is there? And who is footing the bill?  Why is there such a push to get more and more from the cattle owners and why are they continually ask to ante up?

I have heard numerous accounts of cattlemen from around the nation who cannot attend the convention simply because it costs too much money. I realize that cattle prices have been out of this world for a year but that's not every year. Should the cost to attend and speak up where it matters really be that prohibitive? Is there a motive behind this?

In the past few years I certainly noticed the "price to play" has gotten completely out of control. Let me just give you a run down.

Full registration for the convention, which gives you access to most of the opportunities to be where your voice can be heard, is $675. Adding a spouse to the trip for $625 would bring registration alone to a total of $1300.

I suppose if you do a good job booking flights and keep it to about $350 per person, you have just added another $700 to the trip.

These "destination locations" for meetings guarantee that rooms are never economical or even reasonable so you will spend a minimum of $190/night plus tax for 5 nights. Now we are adding about $1125 to sleep for a couple hours each night.

While you are there, you are going to have to eat and that will run about $100/day to pick up meals not included in your registration.

As a loyal and supporting NCBA member, you will likely go to the PAC auction at $25/head and then you will need to raise your hand while you are there and it's hard to say how much that can set you back.

The real story is that you must be prepared to drop at least $3000 if you want even a chance to be heard at this meeting. So let's be honest, the majority of the people in attendance are there on their state's Check-off expense account or some industry expense account. When the price of admission is equal to the value of replacing two cows in your herd, is it really worth it to attend? Why should producers have to make this kind of choice?

Is this by design? Does current leadership not want the everyday cowboy to show up and ask the hard questions? Cowboys tend to speak their mind and tell it like it is, rather than patsying around a subject in an attempt to be politically correct and not ruffle any feathers. We don't mind ruffling feathers! We do mind people blowing smoke up our tail in an attempt to cover their own substandard performance.

A staff, led by an individual that makes over $428,319 a year, and a team that averages $180,000 salaries apparently cannot relate to the real world anymore.

If our industry association we were really getting the job done, maybe it would be a little easier to swallow. However, when you consider that beef demand has plummeted from 79.2 lbs per person in 1985 to barely 50 lbs in 2014, one must wonder is that is a good use of our funds.

We have let the USDA destroy the beef industry, first in school nutrition and most recently in dietary recommendations. They have misled consumers to the point where people feel guilty when they choose beef because they now think the cow is killing the planet.

I am really curious to see what comes out of this high-end cattlemen's social gathering. Will we have any more direction than we've had in the past or will we just keep funneling money toward the status quo?

Trent and his wife Kelli operation a diversified livestock ranch in Central Nebraska. More information can be found at or contact

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