It's been known for quite some time that the leadership of Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF) was divided in its vision. Some wanted a mainstream organization focused on a wide range of issues; others wanted to retain the focus on a narrow range of market issues.
The group that wanted R-CALF to become part of the mainstream envisioned establishing themselves as a legitimate lobbying force in Washington, D.C. The more militant wing was committed to pursuing legal remedies above all else, and maintaining the confrontational anti-establishment posture that helped them to generate membership in the beginning.
Well, the issue was decided recently when those who wanted to pursue the legal remedies and the narrow focus succeeded in ousting the leadership that favored a mainstream approach. It's revolutionary to see a president get removed from office during his term due to power plays in a membership organization, and equally unheard of to have the driving personalities and founding leadership resign as a result.
By now, everyone's heard of the internal power struggles, the resignations of committee leaders and board members over this internal division that threatens R-CALF's viability. Most people overlooked the membership numbers that didn't match dues revenues, or the financials that were so poorly done and lacked transparency to the point that auditors wouldn't stand behind their accuracy.
But those factors were largely discounted as simple understandable failures of a new organization. The thinking was the group would develop the infrastructure and policy-making framework over time.
In the aftermath of the R-CALF implosion, the question is whether a third group will evolve?
One thing we can say is that while all people will never all agree on the proper industry course, we should be able to agree that its important to speak with one voice. Also important is to have a democratic policy-making apparatus where the majority's will prevails but the minority stays committed to the process.
This industry's political capital was decimated on marketing issues when the industry split, and a lot of rhetoric and no action has been the result. We certainly don't need three voices.
-- Troy Marshall