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Honor and Protect the Ranching Way of Life

By Eldon White, TSCRA executive vice president

It was reported several times during the 2012 TSCRA Convention Weekend that Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) is financially strong and membership has been steadily growing. I'm pleased to reaffirm that report. This achievement is possible because of strong leaders who are carefully watching the financial status of TSCRA, and who are actively engaged in member recruiting.

I would like to focus my comments on the membership area. Membership in TSCRA has grown to more than 15,700. This is a great accomplishment, especially in light of the historic drought, weak economy and high input costs.

But we have a way to go if we are to reach the goal set out by TSCRA President Joe Parker of 20,000 members by the year 2020. We'll need everyone's help to attain this goal. And we'll need effective tools to help deliver the TSCRA message.

At the 2012 TSCRA Convention Weekend, we launched new advertising materials with the message, "To Honor and Protect the Ranching Way of Life."

New print ads have been developed and are available online at tscra.org. Just go to "About Us" in the yellow navigation bar and click on "Why Join TSCRA" in the drop-down menu. Then, click on the links to the 3 new ads.

We have developed a new membership brochure with a strong message to encourage cattle raisers to join. Other materials will soon be available centered on the theme of honoring and protecting the ranching way of life.

It was interesting sitting in on the meetings with the marketing communications company representatives as various themes were kicked around. Three basic themes were developed and they were tested with a focus group of TSCRA members. The strong historical and emotional tie to the ranching way of life deeply resonated with the members and speaks to the valued tradition of TSCRA.

The first ad is about our Special Rangers. It reads:

"Without your support, the Special Rangers could cease to exist. For well over a century, TSCRA Special Rangers have rounded up cattle rustlers, horse thieves and outlaws without accepting a single cent of taxpayer money. The Special Rangers are funded by the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. But maintaining this elite force carries a steep price. So we're asking for your help. Join us. Your TSCRA membership will help preserve the tradition of true western justice and keep this legendary group of peacekeepers on patrol."

The TSCRA Special Rangers are central to the mission, purpose and value associated with TSCRA. We all recognize that, as members of TSCRA, and we need to communicate this message loudly to those in the cattle industry who have not yet joined our organization, but benefit from these services.

The second ad is about outside interference. It reads:

"Without your support, outsiders could dictate the way you do business. Bureaucrats who've never stepped foot on a ranch want to tell you how to use your land, your water and more. If these activists succeed, your entire way of life will be at risk. That's why the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association fights for the rights of ranching families every day. But we can't do it alone. Join us. Your membership will help provide a united voice for cattlemen everywhere. And help keep outsiders from meddling in a world they simply don't understand."

I might add that these outsiders go beyond government bureaucrats and include a broad group of environmental and animal activists. We have kept extremely busy this past year fighting government regulations that are being influenced heavily by these outside activists. And social media has empowered them.

A recent example is the broad consumer rejection of a scientifically-sound, nutrient rich product approved by USDA and FDA known as lean, finely-textured beef, just by calling it "pink slime" in the media. This resulted in substantial harm to companies that were providing an approved, safe product and the loss of 10 to 12 pounds of usable beef per animal.

The third ad is about ranch life. It reads:

"Without your support, ranch life as we know it could vanish forever. Every day, America's most iconic way of life is threatened by economic uncertainty, government regulations, crippling drought and more. That's why the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association works tirelessly to protect and promote America's ranching families. But we can't do it alone. Join us. Your membership will help ensure that ranching will not only endure, but prosper, for generations to come."

These messages touch the very values that we all embrace. Private property rights, the free market system, and the freedom to conduct business without outside interference have long guided the leadership of TSCRA and have become ingrained in the very fabric of the Ranching Way of Life. The company that helped us develop these messages did a great job of capturing 3 compelling and valid reasons to belong to TSCRA.

Almost all of you are members of TSCRA. What do these messages mean to you? First, I hope that they underscore the value of your membership and reinforce your resolve to remain a member.

The historic drought of 2011 has caused an unprecedented reduction in the cow herd in Texas. From our member surveys, we've learned that most of you, more than three-fourths of our membership, have reduced your herds significantly. While we're adjusting to that reality, we are also facing the reality that the challenges outlined in these advertising messages — cattle theft, bureaucratic overreach, and threats to the Ranching Way of Life — are still present, if not growing in magnitude.

I have one thing to ask of you as you get ready to write your membership renewal check. Please pay your dues on your traditional renderings and not on your reduced drought level. We need the resources to continue to fight on your behalf.

Can we reach 20,000 members by 2020? I firmly believe that we can. How? It will take a lot of hard work by all of us. The board of directors has accepted a challenge to become more personally engaged in membership recruitment and retention activities. That's a start.

Next, we'll need every member to reach out to neighboring ranches with an invitation to join TSCRA. It's surprising how many new members say that they would have joined years ago, but no one asked them. Nothing can substitute for a local, personal invitation to belong to TSCRA.

And finally, continue to give of your time and resources to support TSCRA. Get involved in hosting a ranch gathering or another local member activity. Volunteer your time on a committee or support the various fundraising activities.

Earlier this year, we completed a TSCRA PAC fundraising mailing. We're pleased to report that more than 363 members made contributions to the PAC ranging from $5 to $20,000. Every dollar is important and we need everyone's support.

I've used the phrase "without your support" a great deal in this article. I'd like to close by looking at what we can do with your support. With your support we can build an even stronger voice in Austin and Washington, D.C. With your support we can devote more resources to theft prevention and recovery. With your support we can protect the Ranching Way of Life.

TSCRA has a valued tradition because the character traits associated with the Ranching Way of Life — hard work, loyalty and perseverance — made TSCRA a great organization. With your support, TSCRA will continue to honor and protect the Ranching Way of Life for generations to come.