The industry’s role in the 2012 national election will be critically important. All we have to do is look at history.

Though the endorsement of George W. Bush for U.S. president by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association was very understandable, it didn’t result in the benefits envisioned. In fact, the costs of that endorsement are being played out even today in USDA's posture on numerous issues.

The power of the regulatory and legislative sides of federal government, and the potential impacts on our industry, are unequaled. That's especially true if you consider that winning the battle for public perception ultimately plays a role in affecting both the regulatory and legislative process. But, the reality is that from a national election perspective, the cattle industry has very little clout.

Conversely, however, the outcome of those elections have significant effects on our business and lifestyle. There are essentially two strategies. You can go with principled stands and specific-issue litmus tests; or you can embrace the reality of a two-party system, pick your majority and work to influence the election of the executive.

The reality is that we don't have the power to effect much influence. So the question becomes one of how we position ourselves to advance our narrow agenda; we must understand that we are supporting actors in a play that will create our future.