With the “Bush tax cuts” appearing to get a short-term reprieve this week, it appears that even Democrats and Republicans can get along – if forced to. Some of you have written and asked why we can’t seem to do the same thing in our industry. You ask why the tugging matches between R-CALF vs. NCBA, Farmer’s Union vs. Farm Bureau, keep raising their ugly heads.

I think everyone can agree we were much better off when we had our debates and votes in meeting halls rather than in the halls of Congress with politicians and outsiders making decisions. Nevertheless, it probably makes sense to embrace reality instead of what should be reality.

Admittedly, the two sides are worlds apart philosophically and in their interpretation of the economic drivers affecting our industry. And, the differing world views will likely never change.

But differences in interpreting the data shouldn’t exist and are really inexcusable. But it will be up to producers to sort through the demagoguery and look at the data themselves. It boils down to one question – are our current prices and overall profitability situation due to an inefficient or unfair marketplace, or real-world demand constraints?

If we would take the time to answer that question we could solve 99% of the problems. Just call up the land-grant universities and the other economists and have them describe what the data show relative to the effects of Alternative Marketing Arrangements (AMAs) and the effects of demand, and ask them which explains our problems. Of course, philosophically, those differences will never go away; and with both sides not really wanting to communicate, that chasm is likely to widen instead of narrowing.

There really have only been two issues that created a divided industry – mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) and the proposed GIPSA marketing rule.

Mandatory COOL saw the industry split nearly in half, with the eventual result being such a watered-down version that it doesn’t do anything its proponents wanted it to do, while the costs that the opponents warned of were reduced dramatically. In the end, we got nothing but a little more cost in the system.

Perhaps that will happen with GIPSA, too – in the end, nothing will change significantly. While studies show the industry isn’t nearly as divided on GIPSA – an overwhelming majority of producers oppose the proposed changes – it will be as divisive, perhaps even more so, than COOL. The reason is simple – it’s an either-or type of issue. Either you want AMAs or you want them eliminated, and the solution being proposed mandates that a large percentage of people change the way they’ve been doing business. As proposed, there is no compromise; it’s a winner-take-all scenario.
-- Troy Marshall