Ag Weekly - - - Friday - -
- Sept. 15, 2006 - - - 1:57 p.m. CDT
Not all on board with beef checkoff recommendations
DENVER — The
Industry-Wide Beef Checkoff Task Force has developed four recommendations for
strengthening the Beef Checkoff program, providing more stakeholder input and
making it more inclusive. Conclusions of the 18-member group were reached
following extensive fact finding and discussion, and finalized at a meeting in
Kansas City, Mo., Sept. 7.
The mission of the Task Force was “to review, study and recommend enhancements
to the Beef Promotion and Research Act and Order for the purpose of
strengthening the checkoff for the common good of the beef industry.” The group
met three times this summer to discuss various possible changes to the Checkoff
and their implications.
recommendations were to make the Checkoff more inclusive, give it an opportunity
for a referendum, raise the assessment, and change the name of the Federation of
State Beef Councils to reflect a better understanding of that group’s mission.
Not all participating factions agree with all of the recommendations.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the American Farm Bureau
Federation co-chaired the Task Force, which included representatives from
National Milk Producers Federation, National Farmers Union, American Meat
Institute, R-CALF USA, National Livestock Producers Association, American Veal
Association, Livestock Marketing Council, National Meat Association, Livestock
Marketing Association, Meat Importers Council of America and cattle producers
chosen by a number of state farm bureaus or cattlemen’s associations.
“We knew from the outset that with the majority of the Task Force comprised of
affiliates of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and other groups NCBA is
closely allied with, there was little chance to seriously consider any issues
other than increasing the assessment,” said Jim Hanna, R-CALF USA checkoff
committee chairman. “R-CALF brought up a number of possible modifications to the
program including suggestions to earmark dollars to promote USA-born-and-raised
products, to allow the Cattlemen’s Beef Board to contract directly with vendors,
to expand the assessment to the packing industry, and to conduct a mandatory
Those suggestions were voted down.
R-CALF USA was also on the losing end of the vote to increase the assessment fee
from $1 to $2 per head. The measure passed 11-4.
It also voted against changing the name of the Federation of State Beef
“We felt this was just a change in nomenclature so the Task Force could say they
offered something in this particular area,” Hanna said. “R-CALF also voted that
the Federation should be removed from under the auspices of the National
Cattlemen’s Beef Association, but that was voted down 11-4.”
Mike John, a Missouri cattle producer and NCBA president was satisfied with the
Task Force’s outcome.
“The Task Force was an idea started at the grassroots level by some state
cattlemen associations. At their direction, NCBA initiated this industry-wide
review because we believed it was important to provide a forum for all national
organizations involved in the industry to discuss and develop recommendations to
strengthen the promotion, education and research engine of the beef industry,”
“Above all else, NCBA remained committed throughout the Task Force’s evaluation
that any enhancement to the Beef Checkoff Program must do these things: preserve
or improve producer control through their state Beef Councils and continue to
provide an outlet to build and protect beef demand. We believe the Task Force’s
recommendations maintain this level of integrity.
NCBA’s board of directors and membership will consider the recommendations at
their annual meeting at the end of January, he said.
Hanna, however, said the recommendations leave much to be desired.
“R-CALF has never been opposed to the Checkoff, and acknowledges the program’s
success in building consumer beef demand, but the Checkoff has been around more
than 20 years without any modifications,” Hanna said. “R-CALF represents
independent cattle producers, and those producers have told us it’s time to make
some changes to enhance what the Checkoff does for them. Producers want to feel
that they have a say in how the Checkoff is administered, and they want to feel
like there are folks running the program who truly have producer interests at
Producers also want to know how efficiently Checkoff funds are being spent once
the money is sent to NCBA, and they’d like to see a solid accounting of that
activity in an easy-to-understand format, Hanna said.
“We don’t think the solution is throwing more money into the Checkoff, but
increasing the program’s efficiency,” he added.
Task Force recommendations
* An opportunity to petition for a referendum. The beef referendum process be
revised to provide producers the opportunity to petition every five years for a
referendum on continuing the Checkoff. Ten percent of beef producers signing the
petition at county offices will trigger the USDA to conduct a vote within a
year. This is similar to the Soybean referendum model.
* An adjustment of the Checkoff rate. To assure strong demand-building
initiatives for the beef industry in the future and to offset twenty years of
inflation, adjust the per head checkoff rate to $2.00. The 50-50 split between
State Beef Councils and Beef Board would remain the same. The industry will need
to approve any Checkoff rate change through a referendum.
* Enhanced understanding of the Federation of State Beef Councils. The
Federation of State Beef Councils gives priority to enhancing its identity in
order to strengthen beef industry stakeholder understanding of the Federation.
Options such as changing its name from The Federation Division to The Beef
Checkoff Federation could be considered.
* Making the Checkoff more inclusive. Any reference to the charter date of
established national non-profit industry governed organizations be eliminated
from definition (1260.113c) in the Beef Promotion and Research Order. This will
make the Checkoff program more inclusive.
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