My View From The Country

Nine Challenges Facing The Industry In 2006

  • Exports -- rebuild and regain our market share in lost export markets, while reducing market barriers and solidifying the U.S. position as the world's foremost supplier of high-quality, safe and wholesome, corn-fed beef.
  • Continue to shift away from the commodity trap, and create marketing systems and avenues that allow us not only to consistently hit specific market segments and niches, but reflect these value differences through a revamped marketing system.
  • Implementation of a national animal ID system.
  • Be ready to face even more ferocious attacks from anti-beef advocates.
  • Coping with a cattle-cycle phase where more beef tonnage will be available (even with exports and dry conditions offsetting the effects of expansion to a large extent).
  • Fierce competition from competing meats.
  • Higher fuel, transportation, energy and input costs.
There are two challenges, however, that overshadow all others and will be the keys to determining if the industry experiences a 2006 as prosperous as 2005. The industry seemingly has a clear vision and plan in place to expand on its success in the areas of demand and the business environment in which we operate, but we must watch these two key areas:
  • The first key will be achieving industry unity and mobilizing the industry to move aggressively forward. This isn't the type of unity that eliminates disagreement but that embraces democratic methods of policy formation. It's a unity that allows producers to set aside minor differences on issues to focus on a larger vision and common purpose on which all producers can agree.
  • The second key is to eliminate the zero-sum mentality that's crept into our industry. There's nothing more absurd than the zero-sum view of the world. It leads to the belief everyone must share the same view and operate under the same system, and that government is the tool to enforce that system.
How many of you produce a better product, have a more healthy resource base, enjoy a higher standard of living, and operate more efficiently than your grandfather did? We're producing a higher quality, more differentiated product, more efficiently than 20 years ago. We have better and more powerful genetic and animal health tools, better equipment and technology. It's a combination that gives us the tools to be stronger and better competitors.

Yet, people say we can't compete globally. They say concentration, corporate feeding, multi-national packers, Wal-Mart, pork and poultry, Brazil and Australia will undo us.

We don't operate in a zero-sum world. The size of the pie isn't stagnant or, at least, it certainly doesn't have to be. Our responsibility lies in building a better future just as those who preceded us did.

As long as the majority continue to strike forward, those who advocate the demise of independence, freedom and free markets, and a shift away from entrepreneurship to government management, will always be held at bay. The fundamentals for the future of the beef industry are strong. If we embrace the future with a progressive and aggressive attitude focused on making the pie bigger, we can make it great.

A focus on protection, on stagnation, and the belief that in order for one to benefit another must sacrifice, is our only truly insurmountable obstacle.

What's My View From The Country?

As a fulltime rancher, opinion contribur Troy Marshall brings a unique perspective on how consumer and political trends affect livestock production.

Contributors

Troy Marshall

Troy Marshall is a multi-generational rancher who grew up in Wheatland, WY, and obtained an Equine Science/Animal Science degree from Colorado State University where he competed on both the livestock...

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