Folks, I struggled a bit in writing this month’s message and I was not sure why? Then it hit me, as President you find yourself in the cross arrows of trying to bring a balance to many different walks of life, attitudes, and opinions. You then find it impossible to make everyone happy, so you stick with the facts and no matter how much it bothers you that you cannot build 100% consensus and unity, you do what you believe to be right for the majority, and press on.
Time waits for no-one and we must all get up, show up, participate, and never give up in the trials and tribulations we face in our daily lives. I believe in this life one makes it what one desires life to be and you cannot do it alone. We all need God, Family, and work. I will repeat again and again, although there is no doubt we are facing challenges and struggles of many kinds, with challenges there are always opportunities and with struggles there are always good times ahead. We must choose whether to seek the opportunity or to sit idle and let others seize those opportunities. In struggles you can choose to allow them to consume you or continue to get up and press on. This is exactly what “YOUR” Association staff and volunteer leaders do daily – press on with the many issues that face our industry. WE stand up and work extremely hard for each member of this Association whether you own one cow or thousands. We may not always like the answers we sometimes receive. However, I assure you, you are being heard!
Of the multitude of issues, this month I would like to focus on two items we are facing as an industry. First, the continued pressures for and against our beef check off and, second, the persistent complicated issue around Best Management Practices (BMPs) to help improve our state’s water, either having too much or not enough.
Let’s begin with our check off. The check off began as a voluntary program, part of the Farm Bill, when producers voluntarily agreed to pay $1-per-head assessment on animals marketed and beef importers the equivalent of that on beef imported. In 1988 the check off became mandatory when the program was approved by 79 percent of producers in a national referendum vote. Ever since this time, across the country, some have continued to be against the beef check off. Most recently a petition is being circulated for other producers to sign. This petition is not to bring the check off to a referendum for changes, nor to add another dollar, but simply to do away with the check off altogether. I alert you: please collect all the facts, understand them, and come to an informed decision before simply signing up on anything. Folks, based on the recent numbers I have reviewed, today our $1 dollar per head we each invest returns our industry $11.20. The opponents to the check-off are going to say, well I do not see it in the calf price I receive? By analyzing and looking at the whole system, I will assure you, you do. I have come to recognize that we are in a split industry: the Cattle Business and the Beef Business. In many respects they are opposites. In the Cattle Business our live cattle is our ‘end product’, and we focus on cycles. Supply up, prices down on the supply side. Supply down, prices up on the supply side. This is basic supply and demand economics. The Beef Industry is almost the polar opposite. Here the bottlenecks include the packer who harvests/fabricates and breaks-down our live animal into the meat products that are distributed to the wholesalers, retailers, and food service providers, and the markup begins. Some see it as the packer making all the money but let’s realize our Beef business is a very complex system. Just looking at the old supply and demand theory makes everyone question, “Who is benefiting and who is losing?” “How come my calves are not bringing $1,000 a head like they were in 2014 and 2015?” The reality is we all dislike it when we aren’t on top. But the value of our check off comes from supporting the folks who continue push and drive the market share of our final product, “BEEF.” People say, “Well, I do not see it working”. All one has to do is look at beef sales, and the diversity of beef products on offer, and they will see beef is still a preferred choice of meat protein in the US. In, conclusion, I encourage you to consider all the facts and come to an informed decision for the whole industry, before simply signing up on any petition.
Rolling on to Water, ‘Water’ in my mind is the most taken-for-granted natural resource in our state, and perhaps the entire world. It cannot be overlooked, even though water covers 70% of the Earth. One could say, it is not taken for granted in developing counties where 785,000,000 live without clean water. I am zeroing in on peninsular Florida, and the issue of, “What to do in times of excess, and what to do in times of duress when water runs short?” When the Florida Cattleman’s Association was formed in 1934, one of the major issues the founders faced was water. At that time, it was more for flood control rather than today’s challenge of overall water use and the quality of our waters.
Our state is separated into 5 major water districts and in this month’s special magazine article, Florida’s Waters: Focusing on Decades of Drainage and Development with a focus on the waters of the region encompassed by the South Florida Water Management District SFWMD. We tie this history to the impacts and responses of the cattle industry to water management. The SFWMD encompasses 16 counties, 31% of Florida’s total land area, supporting 41% of our state’s population. Your Association has targeted working first with the SFWMD area at this time for a simple reason, the issues around water are ‘hottest’ today in this region. Our goal will be to utilize the SFWMD region as a template for further discussion, and to build the network, tools, and understanding on how to better serve members located in other districts throughout the state, as issues arise in areas served by other Water Management Districts.
One water quality issue of current concern in the SFWMD region is Best Management Practices (BMPs) for the nutrient Phosphorus (P). The August 2020 FL Cattlemen’s Magazine featured an article on P and the challenges this element brings to our waters. The Florida Cattlemen have been engaged for years in developing BMPs for managing P. In 1998, current NCBA President Mr. Marty Smith, who was then serving as FCA President, charged Mr. Mike Milicevic the Chairman of the FCA Environmental Committee to develop a well-thought-out manual of Best Management Practices, (BMPs). The Cow-Calf BMP manual was designed to assist landowners agreeing to comply and implement the BMPs. In the first phase of BMP adoption, mostly targeted at larger landowners, those who agreed received a letter of ‘presumption of compliance’ under state laws concerning water runoff and quality. The Agricultural Best Management Practices, Cow-Calf BMP manual is statewide, was revised in 2008, and is currently under another revision, started in 2019 and to be finalized in 2020. Awareness is increasing about BMPs because many more landowners/cattleman in South Florida, recently received a letter from Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), explaining the choice, that you either need to sign up to comply with the BMPs under FDACS or, if you prefer to undertake the complex task of monitoring your own water quality, your contact information will be turned over to Florida Department of Environmental Protection on January 21, 2021. Folks, your Association has spent 22 years working on Cow-Calf BMPs, on land rights, water issues, and many other issues concerning our ranching way of life. We are not telling anyone what they have to do but we are suggesting the BMP route is your best choice. However, the decision is yours, we are just sharing our recommendation.
Your Association has taken the initiative to work with the 16 county Presidents and state Directors to better assist landowners/cattlemen that live and work within SFWMD. As mentioned, the goal is to utilize this SFWMD as a template and develop methods to better reach out to landowners/cattlemen in all the other districts as more FDACS BMP letters go out to other landowners/cattlemen across the state over next year. When we pull your area of the state together we will also request as much participation as possible in the BMP’s. I’ll also use this opportunity to listen to any other topics or concerns you want to bring forth from your county associations, and look into other issues we can assist you with from the state level. This outreach will be planned accordingly.
I live by some simple ground rules: communication, patience, teamwork, an open mind, willing to look at all things from different perspectives, and to focus on the long-haul not short-term gains. Everything in life is about balance over time. We must be able to agree to disagree, yet come to a consolidated position and direction at the end of day. Let’s focus on the positives and not dwell on the negatives, rather work on the negatives cooperatively. With this said, as your state organization develops the plan to reach out to every district’s President and Director, please know your state office staff doors and phones are always open to assist you, and please never hesitate to reach out to me personally, my contact is right below.
And always remember, Joshua 1:9 “have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
“IN GOD We Trust”