Member-Driven Policy Association, Process and Politics
I need to provide background for the key points I will make.
Nebraska Cattlemen (NC) policy is brought forward by members, affiliates, councils or task forces. The policy is referred to one of the six policy committees: Animal Health and Nutrition; Brand and Property Rights; Education; Marketing and Commerce; Natural Resources and Environment; and Tax. The committee votes on the policy. If it is approved, it is ratified by the membership at the NC Annual Business Meeting held in conjunction with the Annual Convention and Trade Show. If a policy committee approves policy during the Midyear Conference, it is interim policy until ratified by the membership at the Annual Business Meeting. If needed, the NC Board of Directors can approve interim policy. It must be ratified by the membership as well.
Interim policy allows for more nimbleness when issues arise between Annual Business Meetings. This year, with all the events taking place due to COVID-19, the board has acted on several interim policies to ensure NC has a place at the table to discuss various policies. The leadership and staff do not engage in discussion and debates with other entities unless there is NC policy on the topics.
Policy presents a challenge on many issues with the diverse membership NC has. There are differing perspectives by region, segment and business plan on many of the policies. Staying true to the process is what our members expect, regardless if it does not always result in the policy they want.
NC is affiliated with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). NC believes the process of grassroots policy development at NCBA is much the same as NC’s. Policy proposals come forward from members in affiliates or task forces. NCBA differs from NC in that the number of votes states have in policy committees and board meetings is established by the amount of dues invested in NCBA by each state affiliate. The NCBA Board of Directors then approves the policy. It, too, has two meetings a year where policy is developed. The membership then has a chance to ratify the policies by a mail ballot.
NCBA has the same challenges as NC with diverse membership who do business differently by segment or region. This spring, NCBA came under a lot of fire for some of its policies. Those policies, however, were developed and adopted by the members. Leaders and staff remained true to the process and the policy on the books. One can find fault with policy they do not agree with but finding fault with the leaders and staff remaining true to the process is not justifiable.
Perhaps more important is this reality. The current NCBA state affiliates with the most votes are the Kansas Livestock Association with 28 votes and the Texas Cattle Feeders Association with 25 votes. NC and Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association are next with 15 votes each. A distant fifth is the California Cattlemen’s Association with eight votes. Currently, there are 239 total votes eligible to be cast at NCBA Board meetings. A final distinction is after the NCBA Summer Business meeting, every NCBA member receives a ballot via mail so they can vote to approve or disapprove any policy.
This is important in recognizing how important NC is in terms of establishing NCBA policy. With 15 votes, Nebraska Cattlemen is well positioned to be a key determiner in how NCBA policy is enacted. Depending on any resolution introduced to NCBA that is juxtaposed to NC policy, NC members can be and has been the association that determines the ultimate outcome of NCBA policy. That exact scenario happened at the 2020 NCBA Annual Convention in San Antonio and just recently at the Summer Business Meeting. In those votes, NC was on the “winning” side of the established policy. Those resolutions would not have passed without NC’s 15 votes.
Sometimes an NC member who is also an NCBA member is frustrated for whatever reason related to an NCBA policy and will threaten to drop their NCBA membership. But doing so simply reduces the prospect of creating national cattle and beef policy from a Nebraska Cattlemen perspective. If a person wants NCBA policy in NC’s favor, the reality is that paying NCBA dues via NC results in more NC votes and a stronger position and stronger voice.
There is another important fact to understand. Meatpackers can pay dues to NCBA; however, not all meatpackers are NCBA members. Further, they have eight total votes in the NCBA policy process. That’s correct, only eight votes can be cast by meatpackers. It is a fallacy for anyone to believe meatpackers affect the policy voting process totaling 239 votes.
Furthermore, along with my colleagues on NC staff , we don’t recall a meatpacker ever voting at NCBA committee or board meetings. I respect anyone’s right to dislike that meatpackers can pay dues to NCBA, but to think meatpackers affect NCBA policy does not acknowledge reality.
The bottom line is, NCBA is the entity that moves national policy on cattle- and beef related issues. Your voice and dues dollars via Nebraska Cattlemen are the difference maker. Please join Nebraska Cattlemen and NCBA. Join Here.
Written by: Pete McClymont, Executive Vice President
Featured in: September Issue of the Nebraska Cattleman