Reprinted with Permission from Mr. Boyd M. Anderson, Past President of the SSGA and author of Beyond the Range © 1988
Part of their ability to influence the governments may be that the Stock Growers do their homework. They have seventy-five years of experience in approaching governments behind them. In one area there is no argument — the members of the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association know the cattle business and know it well. Perhaps that is their greatest strength. Boyd M. Anderson
In 1988, the Stock Growers Association can look back at seventy-five continuous years. There have been rough times, and doubts about survival of the Association, but survive it did. In 1988, it is strong in membership, in recognition and in finances, but not so strong as to become complacent.
Three objectives were laid out at the founding convention in 1913 have served as a guide: to watch over legislation; to forward the interests of the Stock Growers in every honorable and legitimate way; and to suggest to parliament legislation to meet changing conditions and requirements. If one looks back over the objectives, examines and re-examines them, I would suggest that they carried the Association forward to the present time.What has held the Association together? Ranch life was and is often lonely – there is the big land, the big sky, the work with living with animals, the satisfaction of bringing those animals through tough winters, the new life each spring, and finally the satisfaction of roundups – horses glistening in the sun as they are chased into a corral. The land, the livestock and the people became a unit, a ranch. To preserve the units, ranchers banded together. They were not intimidated by politicians and governments.Within two years they worked out most of the major production problems in regards to herd laws, fences and so on. Within six years they established a marketing facility at Moose Jaw, followed by the annual Feeder Show. By 1924 they attained the twenty-one year lease to assure stability and continuity of the ranch unit. They showed initiative in promoting the first community pasture. Through their persistence in the 1930’s they demonstrated the value of livestock on the prairies, and that value was recognized by grain farmers and by governments.
It was not easy to let their horses go to slaughter in the 1940’s but they faced the changes brought about by technology. In the last four decades, the Stock Growers persevered so that the standards of beef grading, animal health, and animal husbandry are recognized around the world. They learned to work with others to bring about those changes and that recognition. They have persuaded governments to fund their promotions. Stockmen have always approved of free trade, and the Stock Growers in 1988 are pleased that Canada and the United States are finally coming to a free trade agreement.
The independence of the Stock Growers has been revealed in their strong stands on marketing boards. They have not tried to tell other commodity groups how to handle their products. They just don’t want compulsory plans in the beef sector, but they have accepted permissive legislation. Young men and young women who have maintained and carried on with family ranches have the same goals as those who came before them, and they inherit a tradition of belonging to the Stock Growers. A camaraderie and a sense of pride develops from this devotion, and it carries over to the local associations and in turn, to the larger membership.
Often a Stock Grower’s best friend is another Stock Grower. One of the strengths of the Association is loyalty, loyalty to the president and the democratically elected directors. The Association does not wash its dirty linen in public. As each new president comes to the chair, the past president stands by to make the job easier. The Association is funded though direct voluntary membership. Funds have often been hard to collect, and sometimes membership was very low, as in the 1930’s.
There has always been a faithful core to carry the Association through internal problems. Members, directors and officers travel at their own expense, because they believe that the Association is important. Directors may spend twenty days or more each year attending meetings, serving as delegates and so on, while officers often put in fifty or sixty days. Sometimes the president is paid a small honorarium. From day one, the Association was strengthen by capable, dedicated secretaries, several of whom served for long periods of time.
How does an Association find the volunteers to carry on? Since the beginning of time there have been volunteers, those people who are willing to give themselves freely for a cause. For seventy-five years, the Stock Growers Association has been based on the work of volunteers, and it has worked.
The Stock Growers are sometimes criticized by those who say the Association does not speak for the majority of livestock producers. There may be some truth to the accusation, but then one must ask, “who does?”, Joe Ralko, writing in the October 1986 publication of the Saskatchewan Report, in answer to his own headline “Which Voice Speaks on Farmers’ Behalf?” states, “While there are several groups speaking for grain producers, it is clear only the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association is the authoritative voice for the red meat (beef) industry.”
The Stock Growers do not pretend to be the voice for all cattlemen in Saskatchewan, but they do speak for a great many through direct membership and affiliation. Part of their ability to influence the governments may be that the Stock Growers do their homework. They have seventy-five years of experience in approaching governments behind them. In one area there is no argument — the members of the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association know the cattle business and know it well. Perhaps that is their greatest strength.
The founders of the Stock Growers grew up with the livestock and the land; they rode out beyond the range to tell their story in a forthright way. Today, when the present members of the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association speak, others listen.