Highly regarded cartoonist Walt Kelly once penned, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

That statement, which appeared in Kelly's long-running cartoon series "Pogo," accurately describes the dysfunction that now exists between the American Society of Animal Science (ASAS) and the American Dairy Science Association (ADSA) - two separate organizations that represent our nation's brightest animal and dairy scientists. Instead of forging more collective partnerships at a time when animal rights advocates and environmentalists are looking to knock down our doors, these two organizations are headed for divorce court.

The situation is so dire that the High Plains Journal and Hoard's Dairyman are co-publishing these joint editorial comments to pull the curtain back on this looming catastrophe. We feel the only way to bring the sides back to the same meeting table is direct pressure from farmers, ranchers and industry stakeholders because their collective leadership is failing to see the big picture facing our industries.

This situation has been brewing for some time. The two groups once shared a joint building and management of two award-winning scientific journals, but these ties were severed a few years back. The pot boiled over on collaboration when the ASAS went ahead and booked a separate ASAS-only annual meeting for 2017. That forces every scientist to choose between ASAS and ADSA because tight budgets will likely limit travel to both events.

The modern-day Joint Annual Meeting, referred to by many as JAM, first occurred in 1989 and again in 1994. It was so successful that JAM permanently reappeared in 1998. Since then, successful joint meetings have fostered scientific thought and robust collaboration to solve our industry's most pressing problems. Of course, we, the stakeholders in animal agriculture, benefitted greatly from this partnership as did many universities that have one animal science department that houses beef, dairy, swine and other livestock species. Why is this synergy being tossed into the garbage?

Unfortunately, the seeds of this dysfunction may have been heightened in 2013 when ASAS and ADSA developed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). By signing that agreement, both groups and their respective staffs agreed to take alternate years planning the event. Not only did that not foster communication, the separate planning, checking accounts and "winner-take-all" bounty in profits every other year further gave rise to the current rift. Earlier this year, ASAS gave notice to ADSA that it was ending its JAM partnership.

After the bitter finger pointing, all that remains between ASAS and ADSA is interaction on the public policy and animal care committees coordinated by the Federation of Animal Science Societies (FASS). This is a mere pittance from the previous collaboration.

Bottom line, separating these two meetings makes no scientific sense. Funding decisions by Congress and state governments are put at extreme risk at a time limited funding is available for agricultural research. In the past, our industry has not played a strong role in advocating for research priorities with federal and state legislators. Suffice to say, the effort to secure research dollars will not get any better because the leaders of these groups can't even sit in the same room.

What can you do?

Call or email your state's land-grant university and ask your animal science or dairy department chair what their position is on this ASAS-ADSA matter as every one of them belongs to one or both of the organizations. This is an important conversation because many grassroots scientists do favor collaboration but have been hesitant to speak up.

In your conversation, tell them to call their elected ADSA and ASAS board members, 34 in all. Ask them what will be gained by separate meetings versus the collective brainpower of 2,500-plus JAM attendees with a near 50-50 membership split between the two groups. Also ask your respective department chair why five past ASAS presidents, two past ADSA presidents and two previous FASS presidents co-signed a letter asking current ADSA and ASAS leadership to restore JAM.

As for the board members of ASAS and ADSA, we urge them to have a joint closed-door meeting without any staff. It's time to refocus and take back the organizational reins. It's time to bring back collaboration. It's time to lead animal agriculture. Do it for us, the stakeholders who are the primary beneficiaries of the ground-breaking research by animal scientists in the first place.

Make your thoughts known:
To contact ADSA directors: www.adsa.org/AboutADSA/Leadership.aspx
To contact ASAS directors: https://asas.org/about-asas/asas-board-of-directors
To contact your local university: www.hoards.com/youth/4yearcolleges

This editorial appears on page 634 of the October 10, 2014 issue of Hoard's Dairyman.