Meyer: Now is the time to fix the broken checkoff
Dear Fellow Cattle Producers,
Since the late 1800s, cattlemen and women have been subjected to the greedy monopolistic powers of the meat processing giants. The 1921 Packers and Stockyards Act was an attempt to restrict packer domination of the beef industry and when coupled with the Packer Consent Decree beef cattle markets responded to supply and demand cycles until abandonment in 1975. However, since 1980, small independent cattle producers and feeders have been exiting our industry at an alarming rate of 33 families per day!
Packer greed resurfaced again on June 27, 2015 when a coalition of organizations representing beef packer interests and two foreign countries took it upon themselves to petition congress to defund Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for beef and pork. A successful petition drive which sent cattle markets tumbling nearly 50 percent and directly increasing packer per head profits with your losses.
Within that packer mouth piece coalition were two of your Beef Checkoff funded organizations who contract annually to supposedly promote your product (USA BEEF) and uphold the Beef Promotion Act and Order. These two organizations were the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). In the fiscal year 2020 Authorization Requests (ARs) both organizations bid and were accepted for $33.8 million or 86% of the Cattlemens Beef Board (CBB) promotion budget.
As #1 contractor of CBB funds, NCBA will proclaim there is a fire wall between their beef promotion work and their policy and lobbying efforts. However, 46.7% ($12.8 million) of their allocated funding can be claimed as implementation fees which become general funds and may be used on their policy firewall side for lobbying and Political Action Campaign funding!
Now you ask, “How can one contractor organization (the hired man) monopolize control over your beef checkoff dollars?” Under the 1996 merger of the Meat Board Federation and your former National Cattlemens Association (NCA) the NCBA was conceived with former Meat Board Federation being tucked under NCBA’s umbrella and assuming the role of national voice for state Beef Councils. Yes, the former meat packer Federation now is embedded within NCBA operating under ghost status without Federal transparency. The 1996 merger conveniently bestowed the Federation with one half of CBB Operating Committee seats, providing monopolistic control of your beef checkoff functions. Along with this packer orchestrated Federation power grab, the Federation was also granted one of the biggest “pay to play” double dipping revenue raising schemes in checkoff history whereby they tax your State Beef Council raising another $8 – 10 million annually.
As checkoff payers we are witnessing a complete checkoff take over by our largest packer controlled contractor who wrote their own seat at the table to maintain their financial gravy train scheme. A scheme blessed with USDA indifference which accounts for 82% of their annual revenue from contractor implementation fees that are consistently double that of all other CBB contractors.
The opportunity to fix our broken checkoff has never been greater. Taxation without representation has been the checkoff norm for the past 35 years however, producers can now voice their opinion by down loading and signing a petition to have a checkoff vote by visiting checkoffvote.com .
Folks, let’s stop the stealing and break the monopolistic grip on our checkoff. Join the movement to secure the future for your family and industry by signing the petition and voicing your desire for a producer driven transparent beef checkoff. A checkoff that performs as originally intended by promoting USA BEEF.
South Dakota Stockgrowers Association
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Earl cartoon by Big Dry Syndicate for the Sept. 18, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News