I’ve literally received hundreds of emails from producers looking for insight into the rift between the executive committee of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). It’s about a three-hour conversation if one wants to discuss all the behind-the-scenes interactions that led up to this mess. Suffice it to say that it should never have unfolded as it has and there’s plenty of blame to go around. If I had to describe this situation in one word, I’d choose “embarrassing,” with “maddening” coming in a close second.

If you’re like me, you need a scorecard to keep track of all the players because the checkoff structure has always been cumbersome and confusing. After having it explained to me six or seven times, I’m still not sure I truly understand it, but here’s my shot.

It’s a complicated web and with all the political intrigue involved, it’s difficult to summarize. But, while driving through the pastures this week, an analogy came to me that, while not perfect, does characterize the situation well.

First, we have the overall CBB; then there’s the CBB executive committee, the CBB operating committee, qualified state beef councils and the Federation of Beef Councils. One also needs to include USDA – which actually has the majority of the power – as well.

Now, imagine a 10-year married couple contemplating divorce. One spouse wants to try to save the relationship and move forward (NCBA), while the other spouse isn’t interested in reconciling and definitely wants out (CBB executive committee).

Then there are the children who don’t want to choose sides and are committed to keeping the family together because they’re confident it’s the best thing for the family in the long run. The kids are the Federation of State Beef Councils, while the family is the overall U.S. beef industry.

The overall CBB is one set of in-laws – the set of in-laws who see the value in the relationship, and realize that while families often have difficult times, the marriage is worth saving. Meanwhile, the other set of in-laws is represented by the outside organizations that have been, and continue to be, adamantly opposed to NCBA. This set of in-laws opposed the marriage from the start and have done everything possible to destroy it; these in-laws have the ear of the spouse pushing for divorce.

If you can picture that social situation in your mind, then you have a pretty good idea of the dynamics that have created this mess. It also explains all the actions that have resulted in the past few weeks.