Underdogs

When I heard about a group of beef producers planning to start their own packing plant I thought about a similar effort that took place several years ago.  Back then it was a group of corn farmers tired of not getting more value for their crops and wanting to do something about it.  I remember sitting in meetings as farmers discussed pooling their resources to build ethanol plants.  It was a daunting challenge.  It meant they would be taking on Big Oil.  Talk about underdogs!  Despite overwhelming odds those farmers took the chance and starting building ethanol plants.  They were small at first but later expanded and diversified.  Big Oil came after them with misinformation and scare tactics but two big events changed the landscape and allowed the upstart industry to survive and eventually grow.  The oil industry’s own product, MTBE, was found to be a health hazard leaving Big Oil in need of a replacement product and the passage of the Renewable Fuels Standard requiring the use of renewable fuels.  The ethanol industry has and continues to face major hurdles but it’s history is a remarkable success story.  The investment and courage of those early pioneers paid off.  They created a domestic fuel industry that helped not only farmers but rural communities as well plus helped our country greatly reduce its dependence on foreign countries for our energy.  Now beef producers are attempting to do something similar.  Can they take on the powerful meat packing industry?  The odds seem to be against them.  They will be taking on a well established and well funded competitor that won’t give up market share without a fight.  It won’t be easy but most things worth doing aren’t easy.  It’s risky for sure just as it was for those corn farmers years ago.  No one gave them much of a chance and now they are a major player in the fuel market.  Their story should serve as a reminder and offer hope.  Success for underdogs is not guaranteed and won’t be easy but it is possible. Farmers and ranchers prove that everyday.