Ranchers working for checkoff referendum signatures | TSLN.com
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Ranchers working for checkoff referendum signatures

Fifth generation Nebraska rancher Susan Burklund has been pounding the gravel roads in north-central Nebraska. She is a volunteer working hard to gather signatures on the petition for the beef checkoff referendum and for Mandatory County of Origin Labeling. “I’m a fifth generation rancher and I have a sixth and a seventh generation under me. If it’s not good for me, it won’t be good for them. There is a need and we have to step up and do it.”

The referendum calls for an up or down vote of the current Beef Checkoff. Organizers estimat they need a total of more than 100,000 signatures, in order to submit the required 10 percent of producers, plus some extras.

Burklund has been working local barns and driving around collecting signatures. “You would be surprised how many in the ranching industry don’t know about the referendum. There have been like five who said no, the others are glad to sign and thank me for being there.”

She said many of the elderly ranchers aren’t aware of the petition and don’t get out often so going personally to ranches has been very important. Many ranch wives rarely attend the sale barn but their name is on the check so they can sign the petition as well. “I’ve been on trail roads you wouldn’t believe. The sale barns have been glad to have us, had tables and chairs for us to use,” Burklund said.

Burklund urges ranchers to sign the checkoff petition and for everyone to get behind MCOOL. “I’ve been ranching for 56 years and we need more transparency and better markets, we raise the best beef in the world.”

According to the Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985 the Secretary of Agriculture can call for 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). A referendum can be requested by a group comprising at least ten percent of US cattle producers. The petition can be signed online at checkoffvote.com or in person. 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.

This petition calling for a vote on the program shall be signed only by cattle producers as defined by the eligibility criteria in the same Guidelines (see eligibility criteria below), and any signatory must supply all required information.

Eligibility Criteria

Any cattle producer regardless of age, who has owned, sold or purchased cattle from July 2, 2020 – July 1, 2021 is eligible to sign the petition.

Any person younger than 18 years of age must have a parent or guardian co-sign the petition.

A person who signs the petition on behalf of a corporation or other entity must be authorized to do so. No proxy signature is permitted.

Any individual member of a group, who is an eligible person separate from the group, may request a referendum separately. 

“So our national Checkoff petition committee quickly mobilized to create a strategic ground game for collecting signatures and it is gaining a lot of momentum. We worked to identify key, energized producers in every state to become our petition campaign coordinator for their state. We meet on weekly conference calls to discuss issues and ideas. From these conference calls we have come up with print media ads, social media posts, radio ads, sponsorships and further promotion ideas,” said Nebraska rancher Karina Jones. Each state campaign coordinator then works with the key producers throughout the different regions of their state to make sure that the petition is getting into auction barns, feed stores, supply stores, and other businesses. It really has become a national, well-coordinated effort.”

“It’s important to meet producers where they’re at. Putting this and other hot topics in the spotlight of our everyday conversations is where the impact will be. Catching them in the unload line at the sale barn, or in the feed store, and when they’re picking up vaccine is doing just that. Listening and taking part in cattlemen exchanging thoughts and ideas is how we will change our outcome,” Devon Baum said, she has been working sale barn and businesses in Nebraska.

Many sale barns have been really getting behind the campaign, even announcing the petition from the block and allowing the signature sheets to be available in the offices,

Jones has been working local sale barns and also the Mid-States Rodeo Final. She believes most people have been enthusiastic to sign the petition. “For every 100 signatures I collect, I have only had 1 or 2 people decline. We think that a 98-99% signing rate is pretty incredible. The industry is making it clear that they want to vote on the Beef Checkoff Referendum. 35 years is long enough.”

To get in touch with your state petition coordinators reach out to Karina Jones at (308) 760-3466.

North Dakota rancher Ron Volk has been delivering copies of the petition to sale barns in western North Dakota and Eastern Montana; he has also set them out at businesses frequented by local producers. “I can’t b**** about it, if I’m not willing to try and fix it. Producers have to get involved or there won’t be any of us left.” F


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