Why Affiliate with a Professional Trade Association?

Errol RiceBy Errol Rice, MSGA Executive Vice President

We often receive questions about how and why MSGA structures formalized relationships with national trade associations. In our case, we have a formalized relationship with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. I would like to offer some broader context about why having a state and national relationship structure is important. Strategically, we always find benefit in maintaining both formal and informal relationships with a variety of state and national organizations. Building coalitions is something that we do in Montana as a way to leverage agriculture’s influence at the state capitol. The Montana agriculture coalition is very effective. Members of this coalition include: the Montana Cattle Women, Montana Farm Bureau Federation, Montana Grain Growers Association, Woolgrowers Association, Farmers Union, Montana Pork Producers and Montana Agribusiness Association, WIFE, Montana Water Resources Association, and others.

From a policy perspective, MSGA can wield influence pretty effectively within the state of Montana. We can even strategically align with our Congressional delegation to leverage our positioning in Washington D.C. However, our sphere of influence becomes limited if we cannot access a broader industry network through the NCBA. We have to be able to insert and scale our positions into a larger framework. Do we always get what we want? Of course not. More often than not though, we do get what we want. We have a seat at the table. We are always in a position to negotiate our best interests.

Most importantly, we share resources in the areas of social media, communications, issues management, political action, and producer education. We have successfully elevated the profile of some of Montana’s best in the areas of environmental stewardship and beef quality assurance. Our talent pipeline remains full because we sponsor young ranchers into the NCBA Young Cattlemen’s Conference. This is an amazing leadership development program. We share resources in information technology, allied industry networks and contacts that help to move our initiatives forward in Montana.

Like any relationship. It takes effort and work. A relationship is only as good as the amount of effort that you put into it. Sometimes people get upset over a policy position taken nationally that doesn’t sit well with them personally. That doesn’t mean you give up on the relationship. Instead, it means that you find a way to influence the process of decision making in a more meaningful and impactful way.

Developing high impact relationships is one of the most beneficial outcomes that I see in carrying out both formal and informal relationships with professional trade associations. These relationships can help move our business forward, innovate and create value to the system.

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