North Dakota cattle group disappointed in senate, house approval of state checkoff

Some North Dakota cattlemen believe a producer vote should be taken before implementing a state beef checkoff. staff photo

On March 18, the North Dakota Senate passed HB 1238 in a 45 to 2 vote. The bill, pushed by the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, doubles the mandatory beef checkoff in the state with no opportunity for producers to vote on the increase. The measure was passed earlier by the North Dakota House of Representatives. NDSA opposed giving ranchers any vote on the matter. The following statement can be attributed to Larry Kinev, President of the Independent Beef Association of North Dakota (I-BAND).

“We are disappointed and discouraged that this bill was passed by the legislature in the form it did. I-BAND repeatedly asked North Dakota legislators to model this measure after those in other states which include an opportunity for producers to vote on the increase before it is implemented and to restrict the additional funds raised to being spent within the state to promote North Dakota-specific beef. Legislators did not find any value in those provisions and argued that a refund provision is a substitute for the producers’ right to vote.”

“I-BAND made every effort to compromise on this bill by signaling our support for the legislation if the measure was amended to provide for a state-wide producer referendum before the mandatory assessment is implemented. Legislators rejected that notion.”

“We believe the best beef in the world is produced right here in North Dakota. Imagine what could be done if we had a marketing fund devoted to the promotion of North Dakota-specific beef. There are ways in which to increase the beef checkoff in the state that will unify the ranching community behind the state checkoff but this bill does not and will not do so.”

“The North Dakota Beef Commission has a strong track record of sending state checkoff funds out of state to support the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s (NCBA) Federation Division. Those funds are restricted by law to promoting generic beef that includes imported, foreign beef. Those funds also offset the overhead costs for NCBA, an organization that consistently lobbies against the best interests of U.S. producers including filing a lawsuit with the multinational meat packers and the Canadians and Mexicans to block U.S. country of origin labeling (COOL). Four of the nine seats on the North Dakota Beef Commission are specifically set aside for the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, an NCBA affiliate. In fact, the commission allocated just $681 for in-state research in FY2014. We do not trust that the North Dakota Beef Commission will change its methods of allocating funds in the future. Instead, we asked the legislature to set legal parameters in the law directing the commission to allocate the new funds within the state for the specific use of promoting North Dakota beef. Unfortunately, the legislature was not persuaded to do so.”

“We find it interesting that NCBA’s national policy, crafted with its state affiliates, calls for a producer referendum with any increase in the beef checkoff assessment. Yet, North Dakota Stockmen’s Association deviated from this policy and persuaded legislators to impose this new tax on ranchers without providing them with an opportunity to approve or reject the new tax.”

–Independent Beef Association of North Dakota