I've always enjoyed my local, state and national cattlemen's meetings more when there's a contentious issue on the agenda. Of course, that was in the days when we knew that once debate was finished, we'd all slap each other on the back and have some laughs.

My, how times have changed. The trade issue has become so bitter that folks not only question the other side's intelligence but their integrity. We don't lay all the facts on the table so both sides have an opportunity for give and take. We no longer take the time to understand the multitude of unintended consequences that always occur with complex issues. And, we no longer share the spirit that, even in disagreement, we all have the industry's best interest at heart.

Today, it's "us vs. them." The focus is simply on winning, at any cost in some cases. Instead of honestly considering issues, we wage a war of sound bites.

The industry has paid a high price for all the infighting, especially as it relates to our influence in Washington, D.C. We've learned that without a unified voice the result is weightlessness and plenty of political posturing but very little actual results.

Common sense tells us our true concerns should be the activist groups that seek our demise, the competing proteins trying to usurp beef's position in the center of the plate, legislative threats to our business climate, and our foreign competition. The reality is that the biggest battle that will affect the future of our industry is internal.

We need to get this war resolved. We must demand our leading universities and economists present the facts on trade and its impact both positively and negatively so we have a basis for our decisions. Then we must force the two sides to present their visions of the future, then truly scrutinize and discuss them. No one-sided diatribes; just true dialogue.

Perhaps a majority of cattlemen can find common ground, perhaps not. But at the least we'll be able to say we listened, debated and agreed on a course of action given what we thought was in the industry's best interest. Then, the only ones to blame or praise will be ourselves.