Today, we all have to be part of something bigger than ourselves to be successful,” says Harry Knobbe of Knobbe Livestock Sales, West Point, NE. “Today, our business is North America. We can't just look in our own little circle.”
With that in mind, Knobbe and a group of livestock marketers — order buyers, sale barns, livestock brokers and the like — founded the Livestock Marketing Council (LMC) in February. It's a group within the organizational structure of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA).
“The marketing business is changing very rapidly, just like the production sector,” says Lemmy Wilson of Wilson Livestock at Newport, TN, another LMC founder. “This presents an opportunity for people in the marketing business to interact with other top marketing people, as well as leaders of the cattle business itself.”
Serving Up A New Flavor
On one hand, NCBA never offered much specific programming to marketers, beyond the NCBA's Live Cattle Marketing Council from which LMC evolved. Consequently, some marketers had little incentive to be part of NCBA's annual and mid-year discussions and decision-making.
And even when marketers like Wilson and Knobbe showed up to take part, they felt like outsiders. The Livestock Marketing Association (LMA) — previously the exclusive national membership organization representing marketers since 1947 — is at growing odds with many in the beef industry over its continuing battle to eliminate the national beef checkoff program.
“The only way I see to improve opportunity for cattle producers is to increase demand for beef, which improves price, and you don't do that for free,” says Wilson, explaining LMC's support of the checkoff.
Wilson was an LMA member for 40 years, even served as that organization's national president in 1981. But he says, “It got to where I just wasn't comfortable with the position LMA was taking toward the industry. I just want the marketing segment of this business to be in a positive relationship with the industry.”
Plus, Knobbe emphasizes, “Members of the LMC realize they need to look at what's going on in the feedlots and around the rest of the industry and come together to discuss things. If we're truly going to go from farm to plate, we have to know what issues everyone has.”
For its part, NCBA wanted to include the marketing segment in both its governance and decision-making.
“NCBA was created to be the single, unified and strong voice of America's cattle and beef industry,” says Phil Hardee, a Beatrice, AL, cow/ calf producer who served as chairman of NCBA's policy division last year. “It's past time that we provided a formal channel for the input and involvement of this very important segment of our industry,” he says.
“Really, we'll be treated like the 51st state association, as far as NCBA is concerned,” says Wilson. That includes an ex-officio representative slot on NCBA's executive committee.
Similar Dues And Services
“I'm comfortable we have the services marketing people need, and I'm comfortable there is a strong commitment from NCBA's governing board to make LMC an integral part of NCBA,” says Wilson.
For perspective, Wilson explains LMC provides its members with services similar to those offered by LMA — insurance, bonding and credit information. And, the dues are identical. Order buyers, for instance, will pay 10¢/$1,000 in sales — no more than $1,000 in dues/year. Auction markets will pay 20¢/$1,000 in sales — no more than $2,000 annually.
Wilson points out that the insurance marketers obtain through LMA membership has always been a key incentive. Back in the day, insurance companies regarded auction markets as fires waiting to happen, and the premiums reflected that, he explains. LMA put together a deal that allowed markets to obtain insurance at reasonable rates.
“LMA did a wonderful job with the insurance business,” says Wilson. “It used to be that you could save enough on your insurance to pay your LMA dues.” Now, marketers have an alternative source.
“I feel good about where we are and what we're trying to do for the industry,” says Wilson. “The most important thing is that we and other founding LMC members believe this is a positive move and a comfortable place for the marketing industry to be.”
LMC began with 27 founding members. Since then, it has sent information about the new organization to the 6,500 or so marketing individuals and organizations registered with the Packers and Stockyards Administration.
Although it's possible that marketers may choose to ride the philosophical fence and carry dual membership in both LMC and LMA, Wilson says, “I think you'll find most people will put their money where their hearts are.”