Membership Associations Pull the Most When They Pull Together

By Megan Webb, Ph.D.  Contributing Editor

In the face of unprecedented challenges, agricultural organizations are finding strength in collaborating with other organizations to address the pressing issues plaguing farmers and ranchers. As inflation, soaring input costs, and interest rates create an economic storm for those involved in farming and ranching, the question arises: How can grassroots organizations foster greater collaboration to navigate these turbulent times for their members?

The financial burden on farmers and ranchers is exacerbated by escalating inflation and overhead expenses. At a time when the U.S. consumer is also grappling with the financial burden of the 26 percent food inflation cost, it is imperative that membership organizations promote consumer education and the value of beef to the everyday consumer. Membership associations must continue to explore innovative ways to demonstrate their value to American farmers and ranchers. The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) conducted a recent survey and revealed that 98 percent of American households are still purchasing meat. This is exceptional given the continued push of alternative plant and cell-cultured proteins among competitors and amidst the 19.4 percent increase in retail beef costs in 2023. This survey data underscores the significance of animal protein sustaining healthy diets and communities nationwide.

In times of uncertainty, the strength of collaboration shines through, providing a beacon of hope for the agricultural industry.

In such financial circumstances, advocating for the importance of beef as a protein source becomes crucial. Maintaining memberships with organizations like state cattlemen’s associations and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) is vital as they represent the interests of cattle producers, ranchers and industry professionals by providing advocacy, information and education; networking opportunities; market access and promotion; research and innovation; risk management; community engagement; and membership communications.

Reflecting on the past year, it’s evident that organizations like NCBA have played a pivotal role in making positive strides for their members. They have represented farmers and ranchers at trade events, conducted consumer education programs, advocated for the industry and supported scientific research to advance practices. To me, another great aspect of membership lies in the prospect of continued collaboration among various agricultural organizations, both within and beyond the livestock sector.

Coalitions between cattle producer organizations, commodity groups, federal and state agencies, and private entities create a formidable force that not only supports cattle raisers broadly but also harnesses data to enhance agronomic and financial resilience. The beauty of grassroots collaboration lies in the shared perspectives that emerge when experiences and knowledge are pooled across regions. This synergy not only unifies these organizations but also helps in finding solutions for both national and regional challenges. Indeed, the strength of the agricultural community lies in pulling together when faced with adversity.

NAMI is committed to science-based emission-reduction goals and is a testament to the industry’s dedication to sustainable practices. By 2030, they aim for 100 percent compliance with third-party animal transport and hauling audits among their members handling livestock. Additionally, all suppliers will mandate species-specific employee training for animal care. Such initiatives showcase the sector’s commitment to ethical and sustainable practices.

The collaborative spirit extends beyond the cattle and meat sector, with associations like the American Farm Bureau, National Corn Growers and the United Soybean Board to name a few actively supporting and collaborating with NCBA. Together, these organizations contribute to the development of robust food systems and work toward finding innovative solutions.

Looking to the future, there’s a promising opportunity for cattle producers to benefit from climate-smart production and grazing practices. With membership organizations collaborating to embrace sustainable methods and leveraging technological advancements, the agricultural community can not only weather the current storm but gain perspectives to ensure promise of additional financial resources to benefit their member’s farms and ranches. By working together, these associations help their members sustain operations on the farm and contribute to building a more resilient and sustainable food supply.

In times of uncertainty, the strength of collaboration shines through, providing a beacon of hope for the agricultural industry.