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Home arrow Sentinel e-Newsletter arrow January 2010 arrow Governance - or Re-Governance -- Is Never Easy
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Governance - or Re-Governance -- Is Never Easy PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Tuesday, 26 January 2010
AFF Sentinel Vol.7#3
At the cattle industry convention in San Antonio, cattlemen will have the first large scale discussions and votes regarding the recommendations of the Governance Taskforce.

This may not be easy, so we offer a few considerations.

Overall and paramount, be cognizant that the point of this exercise is making better what has proven to be the best thing this industry has ever had. For those of you having come of age since the start of the dollar check-off in 1986, or the merger of the old National Livestock & Meat Board/Beef Industry Council and the NCA in 1996, you have no idea what you missed. We could yarn for hours but beside the minuscule promotion budgets and the struggles for membership policy funds, permit us one example.

When oversupply would hit the industry or some crisis of consumer confidence loomed, the major cattle organizations would have a crisis meeting in Denver or Kansas City. The hat would be passed around, a couple of the larger cattlemen's groups would toss five or ten thousand dollars into the hat and a war chest would be cobbled together to wage a defensive, reactionary effort.

Contrast that to today, with a strong Issues Management program -- funded and staffed -- anticipating, planning and proactively preventing crises from happening, with ongoing retail and foodservice merchandising programs and national advertising.

The present keepers of the flame should remind themselves how hard-won and sensitive is the merged organism we have now. The decisions taken should be based on what is good for the entire industry, from breeding planning to plate.

Another preeminent consideration has to be reality. Broad policy direction can be originated in committees and approved by large boards. But a board of directors of 125 or so is too cumbersome and too expensive to bring together as often as needed to respond to today's fast-moving political, economic and consumer environment. We need a smaller board we can afford meeting more often. A very large board also inhibits the kind of person-to- person discussion needed to handle strategic wars.

Representative government requires a leap of faith. It's easy to talk straight democratic votes but impractical to utilize. America started with 535 members of Congress, 13 states and a few million people. Some 230 odd years later we still have 535 members, 50 states - sorry President Obama -- and 300 million people. It's the quality of the representation, not the quantity, that's important.

If there are some areas we see requiring discussion in the Taskforce plan, they have to do with lines of budgetary authority and perception of proper representation. But the need for streamlining is not a question.

Mind you, this organization, the merged product of two former groups, is far and away the most qualified, experienced and commands the most loyal talent pool to conduct the business of the industry. There are no other real contenders, so the NCBA and the Federation must work out their differences and strengthen the relationship with the CBB. There is no alternative. We know roughly half of the Taskforce members personally. If they were publicity hounds out for an easy job and kudos, they wouldn't have gone anywhere near this chore.

Caution . This governance is for the cattlemen who are looking to safeguard the long- term interests of the entire beef industry. Being sensitive to subsets of our industry segments is fine. But we can't jeopardize the streamlining, responsiveness and cost efficiencies we need by placating certain groups and individuals whose real agenda is either the destruction or the hijacking of our basic structure and revenue flow.

Frankly, we're long tired of the act put on by those professing doubt about firewalls or certain someone better ought to be the main check-off contractor. Name us groups with comparable talent and experience. These naysayers were never seen in beef promotion circles until a decade after the check off went a buck national. Some of them participated in ANCA, NCA and NCBA debates but fumed that few others were smart enough to agree with them. They deserve no more than the voicing of their opinion like everyone else. But their motives and agendas should be recognized for what they are: avarice and sour grapes.

What we have turned around a decades- long slide in demand and headed off numerous political calamities that could have turned this industry into a boutique curiosity. The road ahead looks even more dangerous. What we need is governance that can out- maneuver, out-think and be more efficient than our non-industry adversaries with more funding and members.

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