Groups talk of beef checkoff changes | TSLN.com

Groups talk of beef checkoff changes

According to news reports, the 11 groups that make up the Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group are discussing a number of updates to the beef checkoff including a doubling of the current $1 per head assessment.

The working group includes:

• Livestock Marketing Association

• National Livestock Producers Association

• U.S. Cattlemen's Association

• National Farmers Union

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• American Farm Bureau Federation

• American National CattleWomen

• Meat Importers Council of America

• National Milk Producers Federation

• National Cattlemen's Beef Association

• Federation of State Beef Councils

• Cattlemen's Beef Board

R-CALF USA, a cattle producer organization based in Billings, is not a member of the group. In an e-mail alert sent Aug. 6, they informed their members that the checkoff working group was expected to vote Aug. 15 on a number of recommendationed changes to the current checkoff including: raising the checkoff to $2, with all or part of the second dollar refundable; a referendum system allowing for 10 percent of producers to vote on certain years to initiate a referendum; amending the selection and nominating process for the "operating committee" that oversees checkoff finances.

The Livestock Marketing Association, with member livestock auction markets across the country, has traditionally been skeptical of the beef checkoff, questioning its constitutionality and also calling for a vote in the past.

Chelsea Good, Vice President, Government and Industry Affairs for LMA said LMA has been working with the Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group for the three years it has been in existence. She said that the working group, in July, "developed a concept for increasing the assessment rate." She added that the concept also includes changes to some of the committees that oversee checkoff spending. Any increase in the beef checkoff – after being proposed to Congress – would require a producer referendum as well as Congressional action, she said.

"Now, the LMA, and the other member groups in the working group, are going through a process of gaining feedback from our respective stakeholders regarding the key elements of this concept. LMA has not yet taken an official position on this proposal. As guiding principals, we support producer-control in the Checkoff program and maintaining necessary safeguards to protect producers' investment in the program," Good said.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association is the primary recipient of the checkoff moneys which totalled $39 million last year. As a checkoff contractor, NCBA uses checkoff funds to for promotion, research and education, as called for in the Act and Order that directs how funds should be spent.

NCBA communications director Chase Adams echoed Good's comments, saying the working group recently developed a concept for increasing the assessment rate, which focuses on changes in the decision-making process specific to the Nominating Committee and Beef Promotion Operating Committee structure

The NCBA board approved a motion on Aug. 2, to continue work with the checkoff enhancement group and revive a memorandum of understanding intended to enhance the checkoff, Adams added.

Adams said the working group has made several recommendations that have been implemented in the past three years, including expansion of contracting authority and a new joint committee structure.

"The United States Cattlemen's Association policy states we support an increase in the checkoff if certain enhancements or changes are made to the program," said Texan Chuck Kiker, a director for USCA, another organization inolved in the checkof working group.

"The increase isn't the focus or the reason for the group, the changes are the primary objective," he said.

Kiker also said that USCA, and most of the other groups do not support any increase to the beef checkoff program that isn't voted on in a referendum by all producers.

Qualified State checkoff councils – totalling 45 – collect the $1 per head checkoff and forward at least one half of that to the Cattlemen's Beef Board or the CBB. Each state beef council may choose whether to keep the remaining half of the checkoff dollar in-state for projects of their choosing, or to forward some or all of the remaining money on to the CBB for national projects, according to checkoff promotion materials.

The CBB is a group of 106 individuals representing all aspects of the beef industry – from producers to feeders, from dairy owners to importers. The board is appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and is based on cattle numbers in each state as well as import numbers.

The CBB operating committee works with other committees to determine which projects to finance in order to carry out checkoff duties consisting of research, promotion and education regarding beef, says the CBB website. Generally the prjects are carried out by contracting agencies including the NCBA and the U.S. Meat Export Federation. F

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