While the war between the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and R-CALF has ended for all intents and purposes, the aftereffects created by the battle linger. The most tangible effect has been the industry's desire to avoid offending each other at the expense of progress.
The days of heartfelt and earnest debate where both sides discussed issues, voted and then went forward together seem to be gone. They've been replaced with an adversarial view and a mindset where people would rather let issues linger unresolved than risk offending someone.
Perhaps more than ever we need to aggressively address issues, and I'm surprised at the depth of the hurt and distrust sown during that time. It continues to prevent the vigorous debate and establishment of a consensus on industry issues, direction and vision.
The response is in ways understandable; everyone wants to avoid confrontation and not open up old wounds. But, ironically, instead of returning to a more congenial dialogue, we’ve ended up with a void in leadership, right when it’s most needed.
Time has a way of pointing out the errors and mistakes made by both sides that created the industry division. Recognizing those mistakes and reaching out to make amends is important, but at some point we must move forward.
I suppose that even to this day there is some tension between the North and the South – combatants in the Civil War – despite the fact that 150 years have passed since the guns fell silent. But the country reunited and moved on; our industry needs to do the same.
Differences of opinion will never go away, but the challenge lies in making those differences a strength for the industry rather than a hindrance to its progress.