North Dakota state beef checkoff will remain mandatory
Editor’s note: This story has been changed to reflect the fact that HB 1487 was not killed in the North Dakota House Ag Committee, but was moved out of committee with a “Do Not Pass” recommendation.
The North Dakota House Agricultural Committee did not support HB 1487, which would have made the state beef checkoff voluntary.
According to current law, cattle producers must remit $1 per head for every beef animal sold in North Dakota for a state beef checkoff, in addition to the federal $1 beef checkoff. This money is automatically taken out of checks to cattle sellers from livestock auction barns. Producers can request a refund within 60 days of the sale of the cattle, and may receive a refund if they file the appropriate paperwork within 90 days of the date of sale. Refund forms are not available online or at salebarns. A request for a refund form must be made to the ND Beef Commission office to initate a refund.
The bill, introduced by House member Sebastian Ertelt, of Lisbon, North Dakota, would have made the state checkoff voluntary.
ND Beef Commission Executive Director Nancy Jo Bateman, in written testimony regarding the financial impact this bill would have, said that it is likely very few people would voluntarily contribute to the program.
“Realizing the fact that there will be people who won’t support the checkoff, and that there will also be people that have always supported the program but will not be willing to pay the price of beef promotion, research and education programs that benefit all but aren’t being paid for by all, the best and fairest assumption the ND Beef Commission can make is that a voluntary program will yield little to no participation,” she said.
Many cattle producers spoke in favor of the bill, citing problems they had experienced in getting their refunds, and many frustrations about North Dakota dollars going to support the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. One of the main frustrations was the fact that NCBA opposed country of origin labeling for beef, and many testifiers pointed out that they believed the generic beef promotion done by the checkoff does not necessarily help US or North Dakota producers.
Far fewer people spoke against the bill. Opponents of the bill said that producers have the option to request a refund if they are unhappy with the management of checkoff funds. They also talked about beef research, education and promotion projects that they believe are helping producers, and said they worried that if the checkoff were to be made voluntary, many producers would elect not to contribute.
The website showed 43 pieces of supporting testimony, with 24 opposed.
The bill was moved out of committee with a “Do Not Pass” recommendation. The vote was 11-2 with one member absent, after several hours of lobbying. Representatives Skroch and Kiefert voted in favor of the bill. Some individuals waiting at home did not get a chance to share their testimony.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the March 6, 2021 edition of Tri-State Livestock News