North Dakota considers making state beef checkoff voluntary
Representative Sebastian Ertelt of Lisbon introduced a bill in the North Dakota House of Representatives to make the state beef checkoff voluntary.
Since the bill was enacted in 2015 which requires all cattle sold in North Dakota or sold by a North Dakotan to pay an extra $1 per head of cattle sold, to the North Dakota Beef Commission, salebarns have been required to withhold these funds from producers’ checks and producers who sell private treaty are required to submit payment to the beef commission.
House Bill 1487, introduced this year by Ertelt, would make a simple change to the law. Rather than the law stating that producers “must” remit the state checkoff, the bill amends the law to state that producers “may” remit payment. This effectively changes the mandatory refundable checkoff program into a voluntary checkoff program.
Currently, if producers request the proper form within 60 days of payment and remit the form and the appropriate additional paperwork required, their checkoff dollars can be refunded.
Independent Beef Association of North Dakota president Kerry Dockter of Denhoff said many producers still don’t even realize this money is being taken out of their checks.
His group did not support the implementation of the checkoff in 2015 – they believed producers should have the opportunity to vote on the issue – and they support the proposed bill to amend the law.
According to ndbeef.org, the state beef council took in $2,275,536 in FY 2020. This includes the mandatory $1 per head federal Beef Checkoff and the mandatory refundable $1 per head state beef checkoff. After remitting the required amount to the federal Cattlemen’s Beef Board, refunding $136,075 to those producers who requested refunds, reimbursing states of origin, and adding nearly $20,000 in interest revenue, the North Dakota Beef Industry council had about $1.5 million to work with.
Their largest expense was research at $423,287, followed by administration/operations at $400,335. The next largest expenditures were promotion and international promotion. They carried a fund balance of nearly $1.5 million as of June, 2020.
Dockter said he doesn’t believe the state checkoff funds are being wisely spent because cattle prices have not improved and protein alternatives such as lab-produced protein and “veggie-burgers” seem to be gaining popularity. He also said he also believes the checkoff should promote USA beef, not generic beef, and should have pre-emptively pushed for beef to be a bigger part of the federal dietary guidelines that were recently released.
Getting the bill out of the ND House Ag Committee will be a “tough fight,” said Dockter but he urges cattle producers across the state who are in favor of it to contact their senators and representatives, and to contact the members of the House Ag Committee to urge a “yes” vote.
In a 2015 interview, North Dakota Stockmen’s Association executive vice president Julie Ellingson explained that her organization lobbied in favor of the state checkoff.
Ellingson said, in 2015, that members of her group support the state checkoff because they believe cattle producers in their state are missing out on opportunities to fund research and education.
“We haven’t been able to contribute to some of the cool things they are doing. Other state checkoffs have contributed to studies being done in our state,” she said at that time. Ellingson couldn’t be reached on short notice for an updated interview.
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