The activists allied against us have two goals -- to gain control of our production assets (land) for their use, or eliminate our existence by destroying the economic foundations that underpin the industry. Their tools to accomplish this are taxation, regulation and destroying consumer confidence in our product.

Our survival is dependent upon the industry's ability to speak with one voice, and to speak and act always with undisputed integrity. Unfortunately, the U.S. cattle industry has lost the ability to speak with one voice, the result of frustrations created by a commodity marketing structure characterized by an economic model that's highly capital intensive and produces narrow margins, thus fueling the forces of consolidation and concentration.

These frustrations have created a divide among cattlemen. One side believes the solution lies in government intervention in the marketplace. The other believes the market should be the final arbiter of success and failure, with governments and courts just ensuring the competition is fair.

This division has reduced the industry's political power. The result is that many of the issues critical to the future of our industry won't be decided within the industry but by the courts and political process -- venues far more likely to respond to the wishes of beef industry adversaries than to the beef industry.

The failure of the industry to unite behind the common cause we share must come to an end. The responsibility of regaining the momentum in this cultural war falls on every cattlemen to ensure that the industry will once again speak with one voice.

The following manifesto is a declaration of the fundamental principles that made the U.S. cattle industry the recognized world leader, and the American cattleman one of the most revered figures in history. These are standards we all should be in agreement on, and that should lead to the end of the internal battles we are foolishly engaged in.

  • The U.S. cattle industry must be structured so producers engage in making or forming policy that, following intense and open debate, will enable it to speak with unity.

  • The independence of producers and the right for U.S. cattlemen to make their own decisions on raising and marketing their product should be respected and embraced by all. This tenet must be the supreme, fundamental principle of the cattle industry's policy structure. The courts and the legislature are not the venues to hold industry debates but rather the places to advance and protect the desires and rights of the industry.

  • A democratic policy structure is the ultimate goal of every cattle producer. Those who hold minority viewpoints should not abandon this structure, nor should those in the majority forget to honor the rights of the minority to have legitimate concerns heard and applied when possible. The importance of speaking with one voice should always be considered paramount.

  • This industry is founded on the principles of honesty, integrity, truth, science, fair competition and minimal government influence. The beef industry's interest is served by policy that improves the competitiveness of all segments, not one segment in favor of another or one producer in favor of another.

  • The U.S. cattle industry must embrace the need to be competitive in a global marketplace and continue to expand market opportunities around the world. Yet, we must insist on maintaining not only the safety of the American consumer but also the health of the American cattle herd. We must recognize that fair trade and free trade are different economic principles and that our future is reliant upon fair trade.

  • As producers, we believe in protecting, preserving and improving the environment. We believe in maintaining the lifestyle and cultural characteristics that have created the unique ethos of this industry. We believe in a marketplace where winners or losers are determined by their ability to contribute, not by legislative decree. We believe in treating animals humanely and providing the safest, most wholesome beef products in the world.

  • In the case of competing visions for the industry, the goal should not be to force one side to conform to the other's viewpoint. It should be the recognition that both visions are allowed to compete fairly in the marketplace for acceptance. A unified policy will never 100% satisfy the majority of producers, but rather reflect what the majority of producers are willing to live with.

We, America's 21st century cattle producers, affirm these principles and call upon all cattlemen who love our industry to understand clearly and support completely this manifesto. It is time for our leadership to identify the common denominators that exist and to halt foolish internal conflict.