Attending the recent National Beef Industry Convention in Denver, the overriding message was that change is necessary for growth, be it in business or within an organization. Merging the American National Cattle Women (ANCW) and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) seems like a win-win situation for both organizations.

During the Denver meeting, the ANCW chose not to restructure itself under the NCBA umbrella. But is tradition so important that the underlying issue of “creating a dynamic and profitable beef industry that concentrates resources around a unified plan, consistently meets global consumer needs and increases demand” is secondary?

As a full-time rancher and mother of two children, my role in the day-to-day operation of our ranch is as an equal partner. I take my turn at night checking heifers, pulling calves, feeding, running an IV, marketing the calves, fixing fence, bookkeeping, etc. I do all this while maintaining a strong family structure.

Women's roles in U.S. industry have changed, and our roles in business have changed, too. Without change, there is no growth. Without growth, we cease to exist.

As ANCW members, we need to address our organization's future. That future lies in streamlining, consolidating resources and becoming part of the big industry picture. The benefits of a merger between ANCW and NCBA clearly outweigh any negatives.

Such a merger would provide a strengthened focus on the industry's long-range plan. It would allow us to promote and sell more beef and thus create more profitability.

The increased organizational efficiency would be extensive. Consolidating staff resources, eliminating committee duplication and continuing visibility of ANCW program successes, like the National Beef Cook-Off and the National Beef Ambassador Program, are all added benefits. We can do all this while eliminating the duplication of time and resources in overlapping committees, meetings and programs.

Promotion and education have been ANCW's strengths. Yet today's women, while still believing strongly in promotion and education, are more involved in such policy issues as public lands, beef safety, the environment and endangered species.

NCBA has a whole lot to gain from ANCW membership numbers and dollars, as well as ANCW's tremendous promotional and organizational skills. Meanwhile, ANCW has a whole lot to gain from NCBA through consolidation of staff, resources and similar programs.

The life cycle of any organization has been defined as having four stages. First is birth and infancy, followed by maturing, aging and death.

An organization's death occurs when it dies for lack of new ideas and vitality. Decay begins when traditions stifle and kill opportunities.

In my home state of Idaho, men and women make up the Idaho Cattle Association (ICA). This includes individual councils for the cow/calf, feeder and purebred segments, as well as a cattle women's council. The chairs of each of these, along with the ICA's president, president-elect, vice-president and immediate past president, make up the executive committee. We all equally represent the beef industry of Idaho.

As ANCW members, we need to think about our future. Where have we been, where are we now and where do we need to be in the future for the benefit of our industry? To me the answer is simple.

Consolidation and cooperation are the keys to the future of any organization. Let them be keys to ANCW before it's too late.

Laurie Lickley is chairperson of the Idaho Cattle Women Council in the Idaho Cattle Association. She ranches with her family in Jerome.