It was not a process without some pain. But after all the meetings and the discussion, it appears the national beef checkoff apparatus is strengthened and ready to focus once again on its singular goal – building beef demand. The unfortunate lapses in leadership and ethics now have been addressed, and it appears they were just that – unfortunate and an aberration.
Certainly, there are many discussions yet to take place, among them the nominating process, in an attempt to avoid the checkoff again being used as a political weapon. Some of that politicking is unavoidable, and maybe even healthy, but the overall Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) votes have showed there remains too many dedicated volunteer leaders to allow things to be taken down that path again.
The good news is that, despite all the drama at the top, the work of the checkoff really never stopped at the contractor or state beef council levels. As a result, we didn’t lose as much ground as many people might have feared. In addition, there are some real and substantive issues that hopefully can now be addressed in a proactive and positive manner to make the checkoff even more efficient and effective.
Some argue that the checkoff fiasco and the federal debt-ceiling fiasco are similar in that neither addressed the true underlying issues, but I think this is a mischaracterization. The raising of the debt ceiling left the U.S. with a downgraded credit rating and a still-exploding deficit. Its only significant accomplishment was removing the debate from the table until after the 2012 elections.
Conversely, the actions taken by the CBB have restored faith in the process, making it possible to positively address the issues it faces. With the exception of a few highly partisan individuals, I think the overall cattle industry sees the value of moving forward once again in a proactive manner.
While there will always be room for improvement, the most important step right now may be to evaluate just how we allowed the process to be brought down to the level it did – and ensure it isn’t repeated.