An Evolving Industry
From 1906 to 1914, ANSLA members addressed issues that would repeatedly press the industry over the next century, such as export and trade issues, consumer rebellion against high food prices, the condition and control of public lands and livestock transportation. Specifically, members were facing the impending outbreak of World War I and feuding with railroad companies over rates, service and availability of cars.
Soon, issues of concern turned to meeting the supply and demand of the war effort, containing the spread of contagious animal diseases, controlling predators and poisonous plants, fighting an increase in livestock commission charges, and keeping retail prices and cattle prices more relative in the market place.
In 1921, the Packers and Stockyards Act was passed to regulate the "Beef Trust" or the "Big Five Packers," who were proven to be engaged in monopoly and anti-trust violations. In 1922, the National Live Stock and Meat Board was officially organized to "build demand by promoting the product" and in 1924, meat grading was introduced into the meat processing system.
Although the livestock industry was slowly becoming more sophisticated, it had no recourse for Mother Nature. The early 30s saw the already drought-stricken Great Plains devastated by the Dust Bowl. The entire nation fell victim to the Great Depression. Banks failed by the thousand, forcing herd liquidation and wiping out one quarter of a million farmers and ranchers.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in 1933 and initiated a number of "New Deal" programs, including the Agricultural Adjustment Act, which was the first attempt by the government to manage agriculture. It paid farmers to reduce acreage and store commodities, as well as established price supports based on a new concept, parity.
The Taylor Grazing Act was another product of the New Deal. It contained a provision for grazing fees and brought some security to ranchers using federal lands by effectively ending homesteading and the open range.
December 7, 1941. D-Day. President Roosevelt called it "A day which shall live in infamy." It was also a day that began yet another economic struggle for the beef industry with price controls, rationing, inflation, the black market, labor shortages, poor transportation and the pledge by ANSLA members to make "necessary sacrifices" to assure an adequate beef supply for the nation and military.
Beef producers would struggle against their "necessary sacrifices" for the next five years -- the duration of World War II.
The American National Livestock Association celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1947. The industry was beginning to recover from World War II and producers were glad to be free from price controls and rationing. ANSLA challenged the federal government once again on "non-war issues," such as public lands, tariffs and the control of foot-and-mouth disease.
Four years later, ANSLA members voted to change their name to the American National Cattlemen’s Association (ANCA). That same year, the Korean War exploded and for the third time in approximately 40 years, the industry faced problems of supply and demand, the black market and price controls. These factors, coupled with low prices and drought in the Great Plains lead to the “Great Cattle Bust of 1953.” Cattlemen accepted government aid without the customary battles.
Beef producers knew they could not rely on government aid – nor did they want to. Jay Taylor, ANCA president from 1954-55, was an advocate of self-help through beef promotion. Taylor initiated the National Beef Council and led the charge to pass a nationally legislated checkoff.