Calls for state beef checkoff refunds coming in
$.50 must be sent to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (national checkoff oversight board)
$.50 can be spent as deemed fit by the state beef council (this is referred to in the story as “federal checkoff”
North Dakota state checkoff
refundable – request must be made within 60 days and completed within 90 days of sale
funds can be used as desire by the beef council
In the summer of 2015 the state of North Dakota implemented a second beef checkoff in addition to the current one dollar federal checkoff that all states are required to collect. With the new, secondary beef checkoff, the North Dakota Beef Council now collects two dollars every time cattle are sold in North Dakota or by a North Dakotan.
According to Nancy Jo Bateman, the director of the beef council, her office takes in about 1.1 million dollars per year for the federal checkoff and about 1.1 million dollars for the state checkoff.
In a year when producers are reeling from a 60 percent drop in the cattle market, Bateman said calls to her office are not uncommon, with questions about a variety of things including the refund opportunity.
“Some people have reasons that they request refunds and there are really no ways that we can address some of their concerns but for those that have questions about ‘where is this money going and how is it being used,’ we feel like we have an excellent story to tell, she said.
“We used to have market cycles more regularly than we’ve seen in the last years,” she said, adding that producer questions and concerns about the checkoff tend to increase in tough market years. “We’re seeing that right now. I can’t blame ranchers one bit,” she said, adding that she’s happy that she doesn’t have to get involved in policy discussions like talks about country of origin labeling. “If there’s every a time that there is some sort of labeling, that would be the time that the checkoff would look at how and what we would do with that,” saying that the beef checkoff does not promote US beef, with its US advertising.
According to the 2016-2017 budget Bateman provided, almost all administrative costs – $255,396 of $262,146 are borne by the state checkoff. The national checkoff pays half of the commissioners’ per diem expenses which total $13,500.
The state beef council will spend about $300,000 in promotion this fiscal year (July 1- June 30), with half of that being covered by the state checkoff and the other half being covered by the federal checkoff dollar.
The council has about $750,000 budgeted for research with $625,000 of this being financed by the state checkoff.
About $270,000 will be spent on consumer information – again, split about half and half between the two checkoffs. The state checkoff contributed about $50,000 on producer information, while the national checkoff put in about $30,000.
The state beef council also sends $110,000 to the Federation of State Beef Councils in addition to the $220,000 already submitted through the first checkoff dollar. The Federation of State Beef Councils is an oversight board made up of representatives from state beef councils who oversee management of funding sent by states above and beyond the required fifty cents which must be submitted to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and must be managed under a set of federal guidelines.
Pat Becker, a Selfridge, North Dakota rancher, serves on the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, along with James Schmidt of Menoken. Becker said that, while the Cattlemen’s Beef Board must keep their administrative costs to 5 percent or less, the Federation of State Beef Councils is not required to follow such rules, and sometimes spends as much as 30 percent of its budget on administrative costs.
The chairman of the state beef council, Jeff Dahl, said the additional checkoff dollar helps finance the US Meat Export Foundation, a group that promotes beef worldwide.
Dahl said he spends around $525 on the checkoff every year, and that he and the other members of the beef council know how to “squeeze a nickel” and that they try to be responsible to the producers to finance the program.
“So far we’ve increased advertising – we went from an annual report and a couple of blurbs on the radio to funding statewide beef promotion through advertising to the class B and A boys basketball tournaments and also every home game of the North Dakota Bison,” he said.
Becker said that, since the inception of the state checkoff, he’s taken advantage of his right to obtain a refund. Last year he contributed the refund from the sale of his calves to a state cattle organization – the Independent Beef Association of North Dakota. “This year I think I’ll give it to R-CALF,” he said. Because he just recently sold his calves, he hasn’t had time to obtain the refund request form yet.
Another Selfridge area producer, Kelly Froelich, is a member of both the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association and I-BAND. He does not obtain refunds of this checkoff dollars but he knows producers who do.
Froelich does wish the state beef council would better communicate with the state’s cattlemen.
“I’m not against it. I’m not for it. I have no problem promoting our product, but there’s been nothing set out as to how this money will be used. Is it staying in the state? Where is it going?”
“We need to be progressive,” said Froelich about beef promotion. “The only way to be progressive is by supporting it. Yet I have apprehension,” he said.”
“When the supporters were lobbying for this in the legislature, they said that a person could have his vote by applying for this refund,” he remembers.
Becker wishes the state’s cattle producers and feeders – the people who pay the checkoff – had been given the chance to vote on the prospective of a state checkoff. “I’m not against the checkoff, I just felt it should be done in a more democratic way,” he said.
The research financed by the checkoff is a “good thing,” said Becker but he feels like, on the national level (the Federation of State Beef Councils), there should be some hard and fast rules about how the money can be spent.
“All checkoff dollars should be governed the same. It doesn’t look good. There aren’t enough checks and balances on things. If one entity handles it, collects it and writes checks, there aren’t enough eyes involved.”
Auction barns are required by law to collect the beef checkoff and remit the funds to the beef council in each state.
The North Dakota Beef Council meets quarterly and employs three full time staff.
Dan Rorvig, beef producer, McVille; Jodi Carlson, beef producer, Killdeer; Jim Bitz, livestock market auction representative, Napoleon; Weston Dvorak, cattle feeder, Manning; Travis Maddock, beef producer, Fargo; Gloria Paye, beef producer, Elgin; and Mark Wagner, beef producer, Monango make up the North Dakota Beef Council along with Dahl. State law allows that at least three of the board members will be nominated by the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association. No similar provision is available for the state’s other cattle group, the Independent Beef Association of North Dakota.