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Times Are Good, But…

Written by Dennis Sun

We’ve all come away from the convention season with high hopes. Prices are record-high for cattle, lamb and wool keep going up, and most other ag products are selling well. Some say it’s time to start planning for the days when times are not as good as they are today. 

Just like  drought and luck, prices for agricultural commodities come and go. You have read in all the livestock and crops magazines that planning is the key, but it is easier said than done. Planning is always easy. Implementing the plan is hard, and paying for it is harder yet. Unless one is raising pigs, planning takes time, especially with species like horses, cattle and sheep. One could go through a dry spell while the plan takes a hold. In a sense, one has to plan to plan. I bet the consultants never thought of that, did they?

We also somehow need to plan politically. This is harder, as it takes more people and more involvement, and some may not be on your side. One such instance is that we need to plan for a strong checkoff, for whatever type of livestock you raise. This business is just like others. We have to advertise, and we have to look for ways to improve our product. In the livestock business, the cattle industry is still trying to figure out what is the best method. There are two, and maybe even three plans out there – one being the Secretary of Agriculture’s plan based on a 1996 Generic Commodity Promotion Act, a plan the organization he has always belonged to supports. 

It is too bad everyone didn’t hear Scott George, dairyman and cattle producer from Cody, describe what has taken place over the last few years. Scott has been at ground zero for a number of years on these checkoff discussions, and many of them were spent in leadership of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. 

I really didn’t think Scott was giving the company line. He was talking from his heart – what was right, what was wrong and how what plan would affect those out in the hills.

Basically, do we want a beef checkoff developed by the government or do we want to make the beef checkoff we have now work better?

I want the government to stay out of it, period. And I’ve heard from a number of people who say the same. One person said, “We don’t need a beef Obamacare-type checkoff.”

A number of producers want a refund in the checkoff. That is all right, but as in Canada, most of the large feedlots are the ones who want a refund. Canadians pay into the checkoff every time the cow changes ownership, but they all seem to get along with their beef checkoff.

Scott George said, “The bottom line is, grassroots producers have been the cornerstone of the beef checkoff program since it was first enacted in 1985. There is no required element of the 1996 Act – the Act the Secretary of Agriculture based his plan from – that increases grassroots influence in the national checkoff efforts. Furthermore, the 1996 Act assures no protection to state beef councils and gives much greater power to the federal government.” 

Enough said.