Mont. – During 2006, R-CALF USA's membership in the southeastern region of the United States experienced unprecedented growth. In five states – Ala., Fla., Ga., La., and Miss. – the effort to double membership was just half a dozen producers shy of attaining that goal. Membership in Texas continued to remain strong.
“Membership in the southeastern region is growing by leaps and bounds,” said R-CALF USA Southeastern Field Coordinator John West. “R-CALF volunteers are the most active and energetic group of people that I have ever worked with. They have embraced our issues and our goals to create a successful grassroots membership effort.”
Since 2005, West has traveled to dozens of producer meetings and sale-barn events throughout the U.S. to speak on behalf of the organization, which has allowed producers interested in joining R-CALF USA to learn about the issues important to their livelihood, meet other members and become acquainted with the organization's mission and goals.
R-CALF USA's mission is to represent the U.S. cattle industry in trade and marketing issues to ensure the continued profitability and viability of independent U.S. cattle producers.
Some of the organization's issues and goals include:
* Working to implement Mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling (M-COOL);
* Leading the effort to strengthen and enforce the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA);
* Maintaining strong import restrictions to prevent the introduction of diseases into the United States;
* Working for meaningful safeguards for U.S. cattle producers in foreign trade agreements.
“In Mississippi, once R-CALF's messages are presented, membership grows,” said R-CALF USA Mississippi Membership Chair Joel Gill, who also serves as R-CALF USA's Southeastern Region Membership Chair.
Gill said he believes that R-CALF USA's unique, producer-driven message has made The Magnolia State an R-CALF USA success story.
“As everyday, hardworking producers hear about R-CALF and its role in representing their issues on a national level, they are eager to show their support by joining the organization,” Gill continued. “Over the last three years, our membership in Mississippi has grown from just eight people, to over 200 committed members.”
The expanding membership in the southeastern region not only is good for independent cattle producers in those states, but also the health of the entire organization, according to R-CALF USA President and Region V Director Chuck Kiker.
“R-CALF was once seen as a predominantly northwestern entity,” Kiker said. “But our growing presence in the Southeast provides us with a valuable perspective and a national focus. It's great to see the new members turning out for R-CALF meetings and events. These folks are a great asset to the organization.”
R-CALF Government Relations Director Jess Peterson said he agrees with Kiker's assessment.
“As the membership in our southeastern region has grown, R-CALF's prominence on Capitol Hill has also grown,” Peterson noted. “Doors are opening for R-CALF thanks to the southeastern members who call their elected officials to spread the R-CALF message. Their involvement gives the organization a stronger national presence and greater access to the decision makers who shape policy.”
Both R-CALF USA members in the Southeast and R-CALF USA staff are pleased with the increase and are convinced that growth here will continue.
“Awareness of R-CALF and its message is on the rise in Georgia and throughout the South,” said Georgia Membership Chair James Vaughn. “Initial meetings were held in 2006, and the seeds have been planted for membership growth in 2007.”
West also said he is hopeful that membership in the southeastern region will continue to flourish.
“I'm excited for 2007, and I believe that through the commitment and hard work of our members and staff we can continue to strengthen this new membership,” West commented. “It is crucial that we continue to reach out to the producers in these states to discuss Mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling (M-COOL), the importance of competitive and transparent markets, as well as fair trade agreements. Once producers hear our message, they want to join R-CALF, and their support helps to strengthen the voice of the entire U.S. cattle industry.”
Activities carried out by R-CALF USA for the benefit of the U.S. cattle industry are funded exclusively by the independent cattle producers who pay their membership dues, as well as by cattle producers, main-street businesses, and other individuals who participate in and contribute to fund-raising events.
R-CALF USA works on various issues that affect independent U.S. cattle producers, such as country-of-origin labeling, livestock price reporting, animal health concerns, captive supplies and packer ownership of livestock, as well as various trade agreements.
R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) is a national, non-profit organization and is 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 both domestic and international trade and marketing issues. Members are located across 47 states and are primarily cow/calf operators, cattle backgrounders, and/or feedlot owners. R-CALF USA has more than 60 affiliate organizations and various main-street businesses are associate members. For more information, visit www.r-calfusa.com or, call 406-252-2516.