Growing up in Arkansas, the cattle business was fairly lax when it came to politics, environmental concerns, and general camaraderie of the industry. Moving to Montana has given me a few new perspectives on things.
Earlier this month, I traveled to San Antonio for work at the annual Cattle Industry Convention. This was their largest conference ever, breaking new attendance records, over 8,100. There were people there from every sector of the industry; an amazing networking opportunity. In the light of historic cattle prices, nerves were a little less tense on contentious issues compared to previous years and the general atmosphere was definitely positive. There was a great line up of speakers and educational courses during the whole week. Montana boasted more than 100 attendees at the Convention and everyone I caught up with had positive reviews of the experience.
On the home front though, I’m back to the reality that not everyone agrees with policy stances of the national organizations, or even local for that matter. Legislative session brings many of those issues to the front. Montanans can be particularly good at holding grudges, identifying a particular disagreement, then holding it as a solid argument on why they choose not be associated with said entities. Even if this disgruntled event took place decade(s) ago. I receive negative comments on a regular basis at work because of affiliations or stances on specific issues. It’s part of the job.
I see it as a shame that people can hold such grudges over issues. People would rather remove themselves completely from affiliation with someone, than take a hit and move forward. Sure, you gotta stand up for what you believe in. However, the best way to influence change is by being involved. It’s amazing how our focus can become so narrowed, that our sights are stuck on one contentious negative outcome and we completely miss the larger good that is being accomplished.
We have a larger impact on discussions by being involved, even if outcomes are not what we desire, than we do by removing ourselves from the table. The common cliché passed around at this point, “If you’re not at the table, you might find yourself on the menu.” As much as I despise clichés, it’s true. Divide and conquer rarely wins the war.
For an introvert, like myself, continual controversy and negativity can be rather taxing. We (and here I mean everyone in the agriculture industry, myself included at times) could use some help with soft skills of communication and active listening on occasion.
As much as this bothers me, I’m glad to say this is part of what makes the cattle industry strong, resilient, independent and diverse. It provides us with an opportunity to strengthen skills, broaden horizons, embrace new experiences and learn to be better at compromising and negotiating contentious issues. We won’t always get everything the way we would like. There has to be a little give and take now and then.
**This sentiment is in no way directed at a specific individual, groups in a specific state/region, and in no way associated with my work or employer. This is a general observation, from cumulative experiences, that I believe can apply across the industry.**
Enough of the negative. How was my first trip to San Antonio? More on that in my next blog post.