Billings, Mont. – R-CALF USA Directors recently elected a new president and vice president of the board, as the organization’s bylaws provide that officers shall serve 2-year terms. The immediate past president of the board, R-CALF USA Region VI Director Max Thornsberry, DVM, MBA, began his term in February 2007, so he is ineligible to be president for another term.
“I thank the R-CALF USA Board of Directors for the faith and trust they placed in my leadership for the last four years,” said Thornsberry. “It has been an awesome responsibility to lead as President of the Board, and I am humbled by the responsibility. The Board elects its own officers, and I am confident the new officers will provide leadership and new direction to move R-CALF USA into the next few years as the most prominent and respected independent cattle producer organization in the United States.”
The board elected R-CALF USA Region IX Director George Chambers as president, and R-CALF USA Region XII Director Joel Gill as vice president. Today’s release will feature a Q&A with George Chambers, and a separate news release in the near future will highlight Joel Gill. R-CALF USA Region IX includes Alabama, Florida and Georgia. R-CALF USA Region XII includes Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. For biographical information and/or a photo, please contact R-CALF USA Communications Coordinator Shae Dodson-Chambers (no relation to George Chambers).
Chambers said after he was elected that he is very humbled and honored to serve as the board president, and because R-CALF USA is all that independent producers have to secure their futures in the cattle industry, he is willing to do all he can to make certain that R-CALF USA remains strong, with the help, guidance and support of the other directors.
1) Why did you get involved with R-CALF USA?
“I had become fed up with the lack of grassroots foundational representation that the traditional industry groups offered. It appeared they were more concerned with aligning and positioning themselves with the very entities that want to consolidate and vertically integrate our U.S. cattle industry. I feel the purpose of a group that purports to represent producers should, in fact, do just that, and not be so concerned with being “corporate cowboys,” but rather, they should be “conscientious cowboys.” I served as a regional vice president of my state affiliation of one of the traditional industry groups and saw firsthand the trail they were headed down. The old saying goes, ‘When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging,’ so I stopped digging and left that group. I went ‘unaffiliated’ for a period of time, and fortunately for the U.S. cattle industry, R-CALF USA was formed and evolved into the ONE and ONLY true voice of independent U.S. cattlemen and women. R-CALF USA is beholden to no one except our member-derived and member-driven policies.”
2) What are some of R-CALF USA’s featured accomplishments, in your opinion?
“It is my firm belief that if not for R-CALF USA, the U.S. cattle industry would be vertically integrated today. Our accomplishments as an organization are many. We were at the forefront during the battle for country-of-origin labeling (COOL). Had it not been for our members communicating with Congress, COOL may have failed. I have always marveled at how a true foundation-driven membership organization operates when the membership has ‘skin in the game.’ R-CALF USA members DO have skin in the game. This is how we make our living. We are multigenerational farm and ranch families who take pride in not only what we grow, but how we grow it. R-CALF USA took point position on the ill-advised National Animal Identification System (NAIS) proposal, and, again, our members responded not only with communications to Washington, but we turned out en masse at USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) field hearings – literally from Florida to Montana. Our voices were heard, though I fear USDA’s new proposal on this issue is just the same ol’ song, second verse. Most recent was our thoughtful, professional participation in the GIPSA competition workshops in 2010. I had the distinct opportunity to participate in the now infamous hearing at Fort Collins, Colo. I have NEVER been more proud for the U.S. independent cattle industry than that day. The significantly strong turnout was in large part facilitated by R-CALF USA and its state affiliates and other supportive groups. It was a day when I was definitely PROUD to be an independent U.S. cattleman. I feel confident R-CALF USA will continue to engage in and address the tough controversial issues that ultimately will determine the future of U.S. farmers and ranchers. If only the rest of the United States’ population had the ‘True Grit’ of R-CALF USA members.”
3) What would you like to accomplish as president?
“R-CALF USA has always positioned itself as the hard-hitting, fact-based, educated organization that has not shied away from controversy. We will continue on that track. Our membership is our life blood. Always has been, always will be. If you are in the cattle business – from a 2-head to a 22,000-head operation – R-CALF USA is the only national voice that speaks exclusively for the farm and ranch families of the United States. We are financed by membership dues and member contributions. We are not ‘contracted’ through any arm of ‘governmental speech’ to say or do what we are told. We are a resilient group that depends on each other. My main focus is to magnify R-CALF USA’s member-driven purpose and to make EVERY producer aware that, regardless of size, R-CALF USA is the ONLY organization fighting for you and your bottom-line profit. We will continue to inform our members and educate other U.S. cattle producers that R-CALF USA is the mechanism that will and does represent only your interests.”
4) Why do you think it is critical – even with today’s good cattle prices – that every U.S. cattle producer be a part of R-CALF USA?
“Simple. If not for the hard-fought battles R-CALF has waged and won, we in the independent U.S. cattle industry would be serfs on our own ranches and in a “chickenized,” aka ‘vertically integrated’ industry. The unfortunate driver behind this vertical integration – at least in part – has been the continued erosion of profitability at the family farm and ranch level. Producers have continued to be systematically eliminated from our industry through unprofitable markets and shrinking access to fair markets. Producers have weathered many industry storms, from consolidation in the marketplace, to imported BSE and the looming threat of the importation of FMD (foot-and-mouth disease) from South America. R-CALF USA members have and will stay the course. If you are not an R-CALF USA member, then I urge you to join so you can be part of the solution, not a victim of circumstance. I am pleased about the current market position for us producers, but the systematic elimination of producers from years of unprofitability has taken its toll on not only the U.S cattle herd numbers, but the American rancher and farmer as well.”
5) What do you see as specific challenges to our industry?
“To continue to be vigilant about the enforcement of existing regulations, to make certain that any regulatory changes actually benefit producers, and to monitor new regulations to ensure they don’t endanger our livelihood as independent cattlemen and women. We must continue to not only be engaged in the conversation over rules and rulemaking, but we must also be at the table for the discussion of these subjects. We are at a crossroads in our industry. Will we be part of the solution, or a victim of circumstance?”
6) Other comments?
“Not only does R-CALF USA, our directors and our membership owe Dr. Max Thornsberry a sincere debt of respect and gratitude for his wisdom, leadership, focus, balance and vision, but moreover for his foresight and insight. Dr. Thornsberry, our R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard and other staff, our existing board members and dedicated committee chairs work endless and tireless hours for those within the independent U.S. cattle industry. I serve on many boards and bureaus, but my greatest affiliation is with R-CALF USA…..PERIOD.”
R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry. R-CALF USA represents thousands of U.S. cattle producers on trade and marketing issues. Members are located across 46 states and are primarily cow/calf operators, cattle backgrounders, and/or feedlot owners. For more information, visit www.r-calfusa.com or, call 406-252-2516.