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CONTACT: Dottie Davis 308-458-2220


Cattlemen Groups Gain Steam at $28,000 Memorial Fund-Raiser

Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska and R-CALF USA teamed up to raise nearly $28,000 for their fast-growing organizations at a gathering in O'Neill on Saturday, May 21. The event was held in honor of Tom Whitehill, who was a Holt County rancher and a highly-effective State Membership Chairman for R-CALF USA until his death in 2004.

Guest speakers at the event were Leo McDonnell, President and Co-Founder of R-CALF USA, and Omaha attorney David Domina, lead trial counsel in the Pickett vs Tyson lawsuit. That case was the nation’s first class action suit filed and tried under the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921.

McDonnell addressed the crowd of over 150 ranchers on R-CALF's position on international trade issues. He said that liberal trade agreements like the Central American Free Trade Act (CAFTA), if enacted, "will become the blueprint for other trade agreements in the future." R-CALF has opposed CAFTA and any trade act that does not include fair protection of US producers in the global marketplace.

McDonnell also spoke on the need for mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (or "COOL") in order to stimulate and sustain increased consumer demand for US beef, both here and abroad.

Domina discussed a "Friend of the Court" brief, which has been co-signed by 35 organizations, in support of a March 2nd decision in US District Court to keep the Canadian border closed to live cattle importation. The USDA and allied entities have appealed that decision to the 9th Circuit Court. The border was closed in 2003 when a Canadian cow was diagnosed with BSE. Canada is the origin of 3 subsequent BSE cases, the most recent in January, 2005.

Domina also provided an overview of Pickett vs Tyson, an 8-year legal battle challenging the right of packers to enter into forward contracts with producers, giving the packer a captive supply of cattle. Such agreements suppress the price of cattle by artificially controlling the demand. ICON President, Chris Abbott, and Board member, Bob Rothwell, are lead plaintiffs in the suit.

Domina emphasized to the gathering of cattlemen that they must educate themselves on industry issues and use their collective voice to influence policy and legislation. Both speakers were given a standing ovation by the enthusiastic crowd.

Whitehill's family was presented a plaque in memory of Whitehill's hard work and dedication on behalf of R-CALF. Holt county boasts over 300 R-CALF members, more than any other county in Nebraska, due to Whitehill's endeavors.

Don DeGroff of Atkinson donated the calf which generated a large part of the revenue through a roll over auction. ICON organizers were pleased with the turn-out and the generous outpouring of financial support for the two producer organizations.

Abbott said, "It was a great honor to be a part of this event. The folks I've met over the last year in this area of Nebraska really make you feel at home and appreciate what we're doing for the cattle industry and rural America. Leo McDonnell and Dave Domina gave excellent speeches. It's encouraging to know that these two men of such stature and passion are committed to preserving the cattle industry for the next generation."

Dave Wright, ICON Board of Directors, commented, "Tonight was a great success. Richard Schrunk [Shamrock Livestock Market] and his crew did a great job organizing this event."

ICON member and organizer T.J. Zark from the Atkinson area commented, "Domina and McDonnell each gave very compelling and concise summaries of free trade and the condition of the cattle market in this country. They were both very motivating."

Entertainment was provided by "Jimmy Hanson and The Good Old Boys" from Burwell.