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Commentary: CCA officer supports proposed state Cattle Council

Issue Date: March 6, 2019
By Tony Toso
Tony Toso
The nearly 24,000 beef and dairy producers in the state have until March 22 to return ballots in a referendum on whether to establish a California Cattle Council.
Photo/Kathy Coatney

I would like to take just a moment to visit with you about the upcoming opportunity we have as cattle producers to cast our votes to approve establishment of the California Cattle Council.

Senate Bill 965 of 2018 allowed the California Department of Food and Agriculture to hold a referendum for eligible producers to decide if they would like to assess themselves to create the California Cattle Council. The council would allow California's cattle producers opportunities to promote, educate and advance cattle issues in our state, as opposed to what is allowable under the California Beef Council checkoff mandate for marketing and promotion of beef.

If approved by a majority vote of eligible producers, the council would open the doors for our state's nearly 24,000 cattle producers, beef and dairy, to protect and defend our way of life.

The council's formation would present the opportunity for producers to put the power of defining ourselves into our own hands, as opposed to the way we have been portrayed by activists seeking to distort beef and dairy cattle production and its producers in this state, depicting us as something less than honorable and as a business that should be eradicated. These militants try to control the narrative and define what it is we do. Given the opportunity, they would relish the chance to put an end to animal agriculture in California altogether.

The formation of the California Cattle Council would give us, as cattle producers, the opportunity to join together and take on the fabrications, misrepresentations and downright lies, and convey a truthful and powerful message about cattle producers in this state.

Our story is one of stewardship, responsibility and trustworthiness that must be conveyed to our elected leaders, agency personnel and the over 39 million people that live here with us in California.

The Cattle Council can be an instrumental vehicle in getting this message out there. How? With revenue generated by the sale of qualified animals ($1 per head, refundable to those producers not wishing to participate), it is estimated we could put about $3 million per year toward efforts to refute these baseless attacks. It would give our ranchers and dairy farmers an opportunity to go on the offensive to get our message out, and with strength in numbers it would provide the financial horsepower to make these important messages resonate with elected leaders, agency personnel and the public in general.

Think of the significant impact we could have on some of our elected officials if we were able to get Dr. Frank Mitloehner's studies from UC Davis on myths of livestock impact in greenhouse gases into their hands, and then be able to get these leaders out on the dairies and ranches to see them in action and help them reconcile truth from myth or unsupported allegations.

Imagine if we could put more oomph behind showing the benefits of grazing and prescribed fire to the public and how these undertakings, in tandem, could help thwart devastating fires, all the while helping improve our rangelands from invasive or noxious plant species, improving our air and water quality and enhancing open space.

How great it would be to educate the public on what the vast majority of producers do every day to provide their livestock with the best in care and welfare management. Our voluntary participation and adherence to programs like Beef Quality Assurance and our investments in the best technology to help us help our livestock needs to be communicated.

These could be some of the benefits we could realize by taking the step to approve the Cattle Council.

I have often said that when it's shipping time in the spring, we are incredibly proud of the animals we load onto those trucks. It makes our hearts swell with pride to reap those rewards, not only in the form of a paycheck, but in the awesomeness of having created something special that feeds and benefits so many.

However, my proudest moments are seeing my kids saddled up with me and being a part of our family operation—it's something bigger than just a job or a product. It's the tradition, it's the land, it's the animals, but most of all it's the people, it's our families, it's the passage from one generation to the next and the pride and satisfaction to see it carry on.

So when you consider your Cattle Council referendum ballot, I would encourage you to think about the dollar you would spend per animal, not necessarily as just another business expense, but rather as an investment. This is an investment in the future of animal agriculture in California, but most importantly into our families' futures, honoring our legacy as ranchers and dairy producers, and positioning our family operations for what tomorrow brings.

This critical message, from us as producers about what we do, needs to be conveyed to the people of California not just once, but continually, and we must be vigilant about it. The Cattle Council will help get that message to the right ears and put us all in a better position to succeed. Please join me in supporting the California Cattle Council.

(Tony Toso, a cattle rancher from Hornitos, is first vice president of the California Cattlemen's Association.)

(Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and not of the California Farm Bureau Federation. The California Department of Food and Agriculture says ballots on the council referendum must be returned by March 22.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.

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