I think the circular firing squad analogy fits our industry to a T right now. I’m one of those people who actually enjoy watching the game of politics. In a kind of morbid way, it’s interesting to watch how the two sides of an issue can distort and spin an event to fit their own agenda.

I certainly wouldn’t argue with those who say that many times the spin gets out of control and crosses both ethical and moral boundaries. Of course, anyone following the backroom political maneuverings surrounding the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and anti-NCBA crowd realize they’re watching the kind of intrigue and maneuvering that would make James Carville or Carl Rove proud.

Politics and power can be an ugly game, and when two sides have diametrically opposed views, there’s usually a winner and a loser. Unfortunately, however, in the absence of the option of compromise, such power struggles – with all their backstabbing and maneuvering – are almost justified.

From my perspective, it’s sad that with all the outside challenges this industry faces and the need to build demand for beef that once again we find ourselves forming a circle and firing into it. And the bullets have been flying around pretty indiscriminatingly at that. But because this internal battle is so coordinated and so centered on the age-old drivers of power and revenge, watching it is more embarrassing than intriguing.

Promises being made, deals being proposed, and longtime allies and friends being thrown under the proverbial bus – it has all the makings of a great movie. Ironically, NCBA, which is the expert on issues management and spin, was the entity that didn’t anticipate the attacks or understand the sophistication of its enemies.

NCBA and the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB), like so many entities, have certainly made mistakes; in fact, I could argue that major mistakes have been made, but I think we should all recognize that the net result has been very positive. While certainly there are those who would like to destroy NCBA and/or the checkoff, as an industry we need to take a step back and not allow these organizations to be irreparably harmed.

I love the analogy between NCBA and Congress; it’s that, while most people support their state policy and their delegates, they don’t necessarily always agree with the decisions of the national body as a whole. Still, we can’t allow ourselves to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

The CBB's executive committee members showed themselves to be political ideologues who care more about power than promoting beef; the result is that the chances of getting a checkoff increase is now dead. Thanks a lot. And the very entities that have always been opposed to the checkoff are now rallying behind the CBB actions of the Beef Board because they believe that forcing the Federation of State Beef Councils to separate from NCBA will hurt NCBA’s effectiveness.

I certainly think they have a point; everyone I know agrees that both the demand-building side and policy side have benefitted from the efficiencies gained since the merger. While many are talking about the “nuclear option” where the checkoff is killed, I’m confident the checkoff will survive if we can stop the nonsense.

While NCBA’s effectiveness would undoubtedly be reduced in the short term with a separation, in the long term, the need for an industry voice and the structure it has in place are so powerful that NCBA will survive.

While both sides in this battle are losers, the ultimate loser is our industry. The only ones who can stop this nonsense is producers by saying enough is enough.