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Will LMA, WORC Persist in Opposing Majority? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Tuesday, 24 May 2005
AFF Sentinel Vol.2, #24

News Conference Shows LMA Still May Not Understand Situation

It will be necessary to fully digest the Supreme Court's opinion on the beef checkoff case, plus the four accompanying individual opinions, to fully understand where the issue goes from here.

But listening to the CBB-NCBA news conference and the LMA news conference, one thing is clear. LMA does not understand - or at least does not accept - the concept of majority rule. They do not accept that the checkoff was designed to meet the wishes of the majority of cattlemen - within the constraints of the law. And encouraged by their litigators, they will be examining the opinions of the dissenting justices for any opening to further battle American cattlemen and boost the profits of the legal profession.

As they had promised to do before the decision was announced, LMA held their news conference and expressed their disappointment at the outcome of their lawsuit. Their Washington attorney and the now- infamous constitutional expert and Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe and the Western Organization for Resource Councils (WORC) representative Mabel Dobbs all made comments. The LMA made it plain their board and legal team will have to discuss what, if anything, is next. But no one should question whether there is any fire there or not.

The only heated comments during the news conference were engendered by your humble reporter. I simply asked why, given that every survey ever conducted has shown that not just a majority but a large majority (73 percent most recently) support the checkoff in its current form, does LMA focus so much on the minority who might disagree with the program? The question provoked a fast and heated reply from John McBride, LMA director of information. Those surveys were all taken when the [CBB] was illegally influencing producers not to sign petitions, he said. We don't believe they ever wanted to see a vote. They resisted our compromise. We offered to close our case in exchange for an immediate vote on the checkoff and subsequent periodic referendums.

Our position is - we want a vote, he went on. If the checkoff has the support it claims, then winning a vote should be a slam dunk. Lots of producers signed petitions, he concluded.

And that was the end of that news conference.

McBride did not mention that lots of surveys were conducted prior to the LMA case. And any organization commonly tells its members what it is doing. Why should CBB be prohibited from doing what nearly all organizations require?

McBride and LMA continue to ignore the fact that the questions of referendum and refund were thoroughly cussed and discussed when cattlemen put together the original enabling legislation and the program from the beginning. It was discussed hundreds of times in cattlemen's meetings all around the country during the referendum campaign. And dissenters were there. I know - I was in front answering their questions.

The result was a program designed by cattlemen the way they said they wanted it, within the constraints of the law. And they said no periodic referendum and no refund - period.

The fact is, LMA has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars (McBride confirmed that amount) trying to overturn the will of the majority of cattlemen. They felt that their opinion regarding a periodic referendum vote was more important than the majority of cattlemen, who voted on the checkoff as is. This from a service sector dependent on the cattle industry, no less. Majority rule is not always fun for the minority, but it is a fundamental tenet of our government and our society, as well as our economy.

Liberal Activist Groups (LAG*) like LMA can't abide by majority rule, as evidenced in this case by R- CALF in their efforts to regulate international trade through their Billings office rather than through the U.S. government and the Organization for Competitive Market's efforts to force packers, retailers and cattlemen to operate according to a restructuring they deem appropriate.v

The beef checkoff is really a pretty good compromise, a cooperative agreement between cattlemen and government. But LAGs hate to cooperate with anyone from outside their circle.

But if you follow their reasoning, the implications are disturbing at best. If LMA and WORC persist in their efforts, if they continue, knowing that they have neither the support of the majority of cattlemen nor a constitutional leg to stand on, then it means that they believe the minority should rule. Since they do not have the numbers, what they are essentially saying is that the opinions of auction market owners are more important and worth more than the votes of the majority of cattlemen. They are saying that it is okay for them to use the profits from the business cattlemen brought to them to sue cattlemen in court to try to destroy a cattlemen's profit-generating tool.

Will LMA continue down the path of we-know- better-than-you elitism common with the LAGs and waste more money from their pockets and from their customers' pockets? Or will they figure they have forcefully and powerfully represented their point of view far enough on periodic referendums and elect to be more diplomatic, cooperative and a positive force for the overall beef industry? LMA has a past heritage of fostering vision and cooperation from the '80s. Will they hearken back to that?

Or will they continue to fight only for past marketing patterns? They could join their more forward-looking market brethren in innovating, evolving and serving the industry in needed new ways? The ball's in their court.

*LAG examples: Public Citizen (Ralph Nader), Consumer's Union, Consumer Federation of America (Carol Tucker Foreman), R-CALF, OCM.

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 24 June 2006 )
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