Capital Press – Friday –
May 4, 2007 – 10:20 a.m. PDT
stronger after split, CEO says
Farm bill, country-of-origin
labeling high on agenda
By Peggy Steward, Capital
Press Staff Writer
Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund,
United Stockgrowers of America remains strong and committed to working on issues
that impact independent cattle producers, Bill Bullard, the group's CEO, said.
Bullard said the recent bumps in the road that R-CALF has weathered have renewed
the organization, made it stronger and more dedicated than ever.
"The shake-up was necessary to keep R-CALF on track," Bullard said in a phone
interview from Washington, D.C.
Earlier this year, the R-CALF board split over whether to continue the
organization's policy or to change course, Bullard said. The majority of the
board felt strongly about meeting membership-set policies and objectives, while
a minority of others disagreed and left the board, he said.
The split resulted in an R-CALF of like-minded members with renewed conviction,
Bullard said. "R-CALF will stay the course," he said.
Some of those who left the Billings, Mont.-based organization felt R-CALF was
focusing only on litigation, but the group works on much more, Bullard said.
Bullard has been traveling weekly to Washington, D.C. He said R-CALF continues
to be engaged in the debate about the farm bill and implementation of
country-of-origin labeling. Bullard said his organization is particularly
interested in the competition title of the farm bill, and it is pushing to
reform a market structure he said gives too much power to packers at the expense
Litigation is also part of the fight for reforms, Bullard said. So far, R-CALF
has spent about $1 million to wage two cases challenging the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's rules about Canadian imports, he said. One case is still on
appeal, and R-CALF is aggressively opposing the USDA's proposal to allow live
cattle over 30 months of age into the United States, Bullard said.
R-CALF membership reached 18,000 at the height of litigation in 2005, Bullard
said, and dropped to about 15,000 in 47 states in 2006. Membership has been
steady this year, he said.
R-CALF members have raised more than $500,000 in the first quarter of 2007, a
signal that members feel the organization is on the right track, Bullard said.
"Our membership demands results, and as we are able to gain improvements, we
will continue to see our membership grow," Bullard said. He said members want
the group to be persistent and aggressive in meeting its objectives.
The success of R-CALF has come from independent producers becoming engaged in
the political process, Bullard said. The organization will continue to provide
information to members to help them get involved.
R-CALF works to empower cattle producers, Bullard said. "That's what
distinguishes us from other organizations," he said.