Letter to the Editor: Response to ND Beef Commission article | TSLN.com

Letter to the Editor: Response to ND Beef Commission article

Dear Editor,

I am writing in response to an article, “North Dakota interim committee discusses beef commission makeup,” that appeared in your Feb. 25, 2022 edition.

In the story, you seem to refute an explanation that was offered during the public comments at the interim committee meeting explaining how the national beef checkoff referendum process works, and I think it is important that your statement is corrected.

I attended the meeting at the capitol on Feb. 15 and heard the discussion firsthand. A representative of the Independent Beef Association – testifying at the podium – said that the recent petition drive for a referendum of the national beef checkoff would have only made changes to the checkoff if the referendum had passed, but others wanted people to believe that it would have eliminated it, but it would not have. His statement was wrong, and the NDSA representative corrected that information for the record.

The petition drive was initiated in order to trigger a referendum of the beef checkoff. It would have been an up or down vote had enough signatures been gathered, turned in and certified by USDA following the extended 15-month period the agency granted for the signature-gathering process. If it had come to the vote, termination of the checkoff would have been the question. This isn’t a matter of opinion; it is a statement of fact.

Here’s the actual language from the petition:


This petition is submitted to the Secretary of Agriculture for the purpose of calling a referendum and an up or down vote on the termination of the Beef Promotion and Research Order (7 U.S. Code §2901-2911 and 7 U.S. Code §7401). This petition specifically refers to the Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985. Title XVI, Subtitle A of the Food Security Act of 1985.

The Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985 states in Section 7(b) that “… the Secretary may conduct a referendum on the request of a representative group comprising 10 per centum or more of the number of cattle producers to determine whether cattle producers favor the termination or suspension of the order” (7 U.S.C. 2906(b)). This petition requests the termination of the order. The number of U.S. cattle producers will be determined according to the Guidelines to Petition the Secretary of Agriculture For a Referendum on the Beef Promotion and Research Order (June 2020), which states AMS will use the most recent census data. The most recent USDA census data (2017) reports 882,692 cattle producers, so a minimum of 88,269 eligible signatures are required to meet the 10% threshold…

“Termination” is defined as “the action of bringing something or coming to an end” or “the end in time or existence.” It does mean “make a few changes.”

Certainly, there are differences of opinions in the beef community on the checkoff, but what would have resulted if a referendum of the checkoff had taken place and passed is clear, not subjective. If you or the Independent Beef Association of North Dakota have questions about the language, I encourage you to reach out to USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service for more information.

Emotions can run high in industry discussions. It’s good that there is passion, but, as beef producers with common goals, it’s time to quit arguing and, instead, work together to fortify beef’s position and add value for the hardworking men and women who make their living on the state’s farms and ranchers.

It’s time to start showing respect to one another, as well as to the legislative process. One notable omission in Tri-State’s Feb. 25 story was the loud, rude and incorrect outburst from an Independent Beef Association representative during the NDSA representative’s testimony. As producers, we are better than that. There are more things that unite us than divide us. One of the most important unifying qualities should be treating people with respect. That’s the fabric of the Cowboy Code.

Lastly, one speaker at the meeting expressed his frustration in submitting his name for consideration to serve on the North Dakota Beef Commission and not being chosen. I can understand that he was disappointed if he had a desire to serve, but that individual is not the only one who hasn’t been appointed after applying. The NDSA has submitted the names of many candidates over the years who were never tapped for a position either. It is no different than applying for a job and another person getting hired instead.

Additionally, the NDSA does not have a run on the at-large candidates. Over the years, there have been several individuals who self-nominated or who emerged from other industry organizations’ nominations. The at-large positions are designed to provide that opportunity for anyone who wants to throw his or her name in the ring.


Jeff Schafer

New Rockford, ND

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