North Dakota rancher Roger Stuber always had an interest in legal advocacy and was frustrated with the pace of legislative progress on important beef industry issues. Thus, as president of the National Cattlemen’s Association (now NCBA) in 1993, Stuber initiated the formation of an incorporated, nonprofi t, legal-defense fund to wage precedent-setting cases of importance to the U.S. beef industry in the courts.

For his instrumental role in establishing the CATL (Cattlemen Advocating Through Litigation) Fund, Stuber was recognized with the Trailblazer Award presented by BEEF magazine in 1995.

The CATL Fund is still in existence today as a means to assist cattlemen in protecting property rights, promoting free enterprise and minimizing regulatory abuse. Stuber reports that the fund has been used quietly to work on a few cases during the past decade, but he emphasizes that it is really reserved as a last resort and only for precedent setting cases.

That said, Stuber says just having a fund that exists for legal battles has been, in some cases, enough to reduce or eliminate the courts as the forum of choice of unreasonable activism.

Additionally, the fund has allowed for some educational efforts among the industry as well. At the 2007 Cattlemen’s College session, CATL Fund members discussed conservation easements and other programs that can affect property rights.

Looking back at the creation of the fund, Stuber believes its existence has made a difference. He calls the fund an important third component for the beef industry. “The industry has always been active in the legislative and executive arenas and the CATL Fund also gives our industry a voice in the judicial system when necessary,” Stuber says.

While the CATL Fund continues, Stuber keeps a close eye on the industry from his ranch in Western North Dakota. His trailblazing spirit also continues, as he says “I’m always interested in managing the future and not rehashing the past.”

Awarded annually in November for exemplary industry efforts, the BEEF 2007 Trailblazer is sponsored by New Holland.

Click to read the November 2006 trailblazer winner, Bob and Nancy Montross