The Colorado Independent CattleGrowers annual convention travels to the southwestern corner of the state this year, with a ranch tour and business meeting planned for July 19 and 20 in Cortez.

On-site convention registration is available for $100 and open to anyone who wants to attend, according to Cody Jolly, CICA President.

After meeting up at the Elks Lodge on Friday, convention goers will travel to the Ute Mountain Ute Farm and Ranch Agricultural Project for an afternoon ranch tour. The convention convenes back at the Elks Lodge, with policy discussions and guest speakers throughout the day on Saturday. An auction and raffle drawing will conclude the festivities on Saturday evening.

Jolly, of Hugo, is nearing the end of his second year leading the state organization. He said one of the convention's main topics would be to discuss the threat of gray wolves being introduced on public lands in Colorado. Norman MacLeod, owner of Gaelic Wolf Consulting in Washington State, an expert on natural resource policy and advocacy, will address that issue.

A handful of environmental groups are seeking to get an initiative placed on the ballot in 2020 that would allow for a vote on whether to release wolves in the state, even though Colorado Parks and Wildlife has raised economic and ecological concerns about it.

"The thing that really scares me is the possibility of seeing this get on the ballot, because we know people don't always vote with common sense or what the reality is," Jolly said.

CICA is a member of the Colorado Stop the Wolf Coalition, which provides cautionary fact sheets and commentary, including a segment that previously aired nationally on RFD-TV.

The agenda Saturday will also feature Tom DeWeese, president of the American Policy Center, a privately funded nonprofit based in Washington D.C. dedicated to promoting free enterprise and limited government regulation. According to the center's website, it focuses mostly on environmental policy and its effect on private property rights; national federal computer data banks and their effect on individual privacy rights; the United Nations and its effect on American national sovereignty; and federal education policy and its effect on local schools and parental rights.

Gerald Schreiber, of Woodrow, will represent R-CALF USA at the convention, along with staff member Candace Bullard. CICA is a long-time R-CALF state affiliate.

Schreiber, who headed up R-CALF's marketing committee for many years, was elected as the group's national president in January.

An item of concern he and Jolly both share relates to how beef check-off funds are used. They are troubled by an announcement that at least two leading meatpackers will only buy cattle from feedlots that are Beef Quality Assurance certified. Those same companies plan to require livestock haulers to get BQA certified as well.

Schreiber said turning a voluntary industry education program into a mandatory one was overreach.

"Nobody's against having the right production protocol, but to push this down on us as though all of the consumers want it, that just isn't right," Schreiber said. "It's not the aggregate consumer who wants this, like these companies would lead you to believe. It's just another control feature by the companies that process our cattle."

"This idea of having a piece of paper to prove what I've learned is an affront to my individual ability," he added. "I know that's where we are headed as a society, but my word and my handshake still mean something. That's my mindset. Years ago we learned to give shots in the neck rather than in the hip, and that was a major change, but we never had to have a certification for it."

BQA programming is paid for largely by the beef check-off with support from industry groups and businesses.

"It feels like we're funding a program that is being used against us," Jolly said. "We producers are funding the check-off. The packers don't pay anything into it."

Schreiber said in his view packers should not be using a check-off funded program to further their own interests.

Schreiber is the first Coloradoan to serve as president of R-CALF USA. The district he represents includes Utah and Wyoming as well as Colorado.

"I'm really excited about it," he said by phone earlier this week. "We've got a really good mix of board members, really hard-working people, young and old, representing a good cross-section of the industry and geographic spread."

Schreiber's main goal as president will be to grow the national organization so more funding is available for producer awareness and education.

"If you look at the economics in the cattle industry right now, the feeder market is a lot softer than a year ago. The cattle feeders have been taking a licking the last six weeks, so it's hard to have much optimism for the 2019 calf crop," he said.

At the same time, packer per-head profits have soared, he said.

R-CALF and CICA also have concerns about the ongoing push for increased individual livestock traceability. Jolly said the metal "bangs" tags producers long received for free when calf-hood vaccinations were administered might eventually be replaced with mandatory radio frequency identification tags that cost $2 or $3 a head. Additional tracking requirements would also increase operating costs at local auction markets, he added.

Unnecessary regulation on the state and national level inflates the cost of doing business, which trickles down and hurts rural communities, he said.

Other developments CICA has been following in recent months include a new fee structure at the State Land Board, which adds a recreational use fee in addition to grazing fees if ranchers offer hunting leases on school land; stiffer set-backs on oil and gas development in Colorado; and the rise of fake meat in the marketplace.

"I call it 'alternative protein'— it aint meat," Jolly said. "Where's our beef check-off been when it comes to promoting the positives of beef? If people actually knew what was in the cell-cultured stuff, it would freak them out."

CICA operates with a shoestring staff, but each year the group hires a summer intern to help with the convention. This year's intern is Shanan Davey, a native of Olathe, who is currently enrolled at the University of Wyoming studying ag business and farm and ranch management.

Following the convention, all CICA members will receive a mail-in ballot with the opportunity to vote on proposed policy changes. Curt Werner, a rancher from Merino who currently serves as vice president, is expected to move up and become CICA's next president.