Dec 18, 2009

Something about San Antonio

Thirteen years ago, the National Cattlemen’s Association (NCA) changed their organization after a tumultuous battle and a lot of damage to create the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). This period was also known as the "Merger." In January, NCBA will hold their meeting again in San Antonio, TX, and attempt to change their organization again, more than likely with the same heartache.

A task force made the announcement following one-and-a-half years of organizational analysis to come up with their new organizational structure. NCBA claims that because of the current business climate and the political climate, the organization needs to be more efficient in their decision-making process. Part of the challenge facing the task force is the problem of keeping all the organizations that are on the current board of directors in the fold, while keeping the revenue stream coming.

Currently, the board of directors consists of nearly 280 people from various state cattlemen’s associations, state beef councils, which make up the federation of beef councils, and other associated or affiliated groups. Representation generally is determined on how much money an organization gives to NCBA. That amount determines how many board seats they are allocated. This has been the system since the "merger" that took place in the mid ’90s when the National Livestock and Meat board and NCA, and to some extent the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, came together to become more efficient.

What has been proposed is to reduce the board of directors down to 29 people by creating a "House of Delegates" which would consist of 250 people who appear to have little actual decision-making authority. Instead, they will be tasked with forwarding initiatives for the board to act upon. The delegates will be made up of 100 NCBA policy members, 100 Federation of State Beef Council members, and 50 folks from breed associations and allied industries.

They will all vote on both policy and beef checkoff issues where, before, each body voted on their own issues with different colored cards denoting the delegate’s affiliation. The task force claims that this new structure will bring everyone together under the same umbrella, making the decision-making process faster and more efficient. But it’s hard to determine just what kind of power this board of delegates will have.

The Federation of State Beef Councils and their operating board will be in the House of Delegates and only the federation chairman and vice chairman will sit on the board of directors. For some odd reason, I don’t see the Federation of State Beef Councils taking this structure very well. It may be the best route for the industry, and I hope it is, but knowing the relationship between these two organizations in the past, I would expect to see quite a bit of disagreement on this organizational structure. The Federation of State Beef Councils has already said that they feel like they are at a disadvantage by only having 40 percent of the votes in the House of Delegates.

After all, the State Beef Councils bring quite a bit of money to the table. Before, the State Beef Councils invested their dollars with the National Livestock and Meat Board. Now, they invest the money with NCBA as a beef checkoff contractor. NCBA has also been in fiscally tough shape in recent years. We assume that the State Beef Councils will still earmark funds for specific projects. On the flip side, when you consider the many vital issues before this industry—and there is a long list—does this new governance structure have the ability to deal with the issues quickly? If it does, it should pass muster with the membership.

One thing we don’t need in this business is more separation. The last reorganization, the merger, created a lot of ill will and created several new cattlemen’s associations, which has prevented the industry as a whole from focusing decisively on issues which challenge its survival. Accessing beef checkoff dollars for beef promotion projects has been a double-edged sword for the cohesiveness of this industry. Unfortunately, the beef checkoff is dealing with the same amount of funding today as they had 25 years ago. Perhaps it’s time to really get behind it, or scrap it. I believe it is time to get behind it. — PETE CROW