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Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde Duke It Out PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Saturday, 24 February 2007
AFF Sentinel Vol.4 #4

Perhaps the industry wouldn't be so fascinated by R-CALF's internal power struggles if not for their insistence only they knew how to run a railroad.

We've marveled at the group's split personality ... kind of libertarian/liberal/socialist/anarchist. At three conventions, we've observed them debating every detail in full session, as if committees of their peers were not to be trusted for even rudimentary work. Policy resolution sessions are chaotic and excruciating because no businesslike preparation has been done by a resolutions committee. The scene suggests semi-anarchists distrustful of even vote-on-every-paper-clip ultra-democracy. They seem terrified of losing their self- proclaimed "grassroots" certification.

Yet in this "open" organization, written financial reports were not available at the annual meeting until last year. Even then, the report disclosed little.

People are slack jawed now because just days after their annual convention, President Chuck Kiker was suddenly removed from office by the board of directors. Surprisingly, in this very "grassroots" organization, the members don't vote on their officers. The board elects the officers themselves from among their own number. The officers serve at the board's pleasure and, evidently, the pleasure abruptly ran out.

R-CALF's split personality is well illustrated by their attitude towards USDA. Depending on the moment, they may laugh contemptuously at the agency, congratulate themselves for getting meetings with or speeches from USDA officials, lash out that USDA is not listening, try to get USDA to put shackles on others or be flat out suing the agency for enforcing or not enforcing laws and regulations. Apparently, that tumultuous and contradictory relationship with USDA was responsible for Kiker's downfall.

We can shed some light on a probable scenario pieced together from various sources. Jerry Hagstrom, writing for the Congressional Daily on, noted that R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard had written a letter to USDA Secretary Mike Johanns in early January regarding the proposed 30-month rule on Canadian cattle and beef. Other sources confirm that.

In order to increase "access" in Washington, R-CALF had hired former USDA Undersecretary Bill Hawks - a man not warmly received by many R-CALF members at past conventions - as a D.C. consultant. According to Hagstrom, Hawks advised Kiker that Bullard's letter was offensive in tone. Kiker sent a follow-up letter to smooth things over. Apparently, it was that letter that set off a furor within R-CALF. Our information is that neither letter was approved by the board beforehand.

The contrast between Bullard's letter described as offensive and portions of Kiker's letter provided by R-CALF members, are illustrative of R-CALF's split personality syndrome.

"We recognize that the Secretary of Agriculture has the prerogative to lift the delay ... at any time," a portion of Kiker's letter apparently said. "We also understand that if the new proposed rule allowing additional imports from BSE minimal risk countries ... becomes final, USDA feels it would be consistent to lift the delay and allow the importation of the beef products ...

"Therefore, we respectfully request a reevaluation of the risk associated with the importation of beef products and whole or half carcasses from animals 30 months of age or older ... and that the delay on the importation of these products not be lifted until that evaluation is complete."

Evidently, such mild language was enough to light the fuse on a powder keg within R-CALF.

We've seen evidence at least one R- CALF member, former officer Kathleen Kelley, was absolutely outraged over such diplomatic language from an R-CALF president. She also charged that someone other than Kiker or the board had provided input into the letter and considered even such input a betrayal of R-CALF's grass roots heritage. She said the letter was contrary to an earlier Kiker fundraising letter calling for aggressively attacking USDA's proposed rule, pressure on Congress to force withdrawal and preparation of a lawsuit.

Hagstrom said Kelley told him she had started the movement to remove Kiker.

Information we have obtained, bolstered by R- CALF's website, is that after the meeting ousting Kiker, founder Leo McDonnell and two other directors resigned. No directors are now listed at all from Regions I (Montana and northwest states), Region IV (California and the Southwest) or Region V (Texas). We have further information claiming 12 committee chairmen have resigned.

R-CALF has always favored confrontation. Now it appears the group has used a circular firing squad to eliminate their Jekyll and Hyde split personality problem.

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 24 February 2007 )
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