USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack is interested in a supplemental beef checkoff program and state beef organizations are not taking the news quietly. The Indiana Beef Cattle Association joined most of the other state beef associations in sending him a letter urging him to drop the effort to establish an additional beef checkoff under the 1996 General Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act.
Executive Vice President at IBCA, Joe Moore, told HAT he’s a bit mystified by the secretary’s intentions.
“I’m not real sure why he has decided this is the right path to take. No one has explained that to us. There’s still a lot of questions, but not a lot of answers.”
“It is unnecessary. We are afraid it is going to cause a lot of confusion by implementing a second checkoff into the system and that other than not being properly funded, the 1985 promotion act that we’ve all operated under has worked great. The state and national partnership which is a part of that program has been very successful, and the act that the secretary is proposing has no guarantee that states would have any involvement or would be funded at all.”
And no state involvement means the industry fears no producer involvement in the promotion of their own industry.
“That is correct,” Moore said, “and in 1985 the first 2 referendums for the Beef Checkoff failed because states were not included. Once they add the possibility of including states keeping 50 cents of the dollar that producers were investing, then the referendum passed because there was more local control. Just to give it all to the government, producers weren’t interested in that.”
The Beef Checkoff currently is supported by 4 out of 5 producers, and it returns $11.20 for every dollar producers invest.
IBCA President Rick Davis of Thorntown, Indiana says “The foundation of the 1985 Beef Checkoff is the participation of state beef councils. Through the state beef councils, grassroots producers invest and direct programs that build demand for their product and help direct research and promotion dollars on the state and national level. By comparison, the 1996 Act is a top down, federally controlled program that not only fails to recognize the role of the states, but places the control and administration of promotion dollars in the hands of bureaucrats in Washington D.C. We oppose greater government control of our industry and heavy-handed, federally-mandated action by giving more power to the federal government.
“Cattlemen and women will under no circumstances support any attempt to supplement, replace, or enhance the Beef Checkoff with the 1996 Act,” Davis added. “We will not stand idly by and allow this administration to jeopardize our industry’s research and promotion efforts for political gain.”
Secretary Vilsack announced to representatives of various stakeholder groups on Sept. 30 that he intended the USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service to begin drafting a proposed rule to implement a supplemental checkoff under the 1996 Act.
The threats from USDA have come after a working group has failed to bring forth any proposals for reworking the Beef Checkoff. NCBA President Bob McCan stated “Our state affiliates sent a clear message to the Secretary that they do not want a supplemental checkoff under the 1996 Act.”
He said NCBA stands behind its producer organizations and vowed to do everything the national organization can do to support their efforts. McCan said “The checkoff belongs to cattlemen, not to the USDA or any administration.” The 45 state associations sent a letter to secretary Vilsack this week opposing his considerations.
NCBA was represented in the Beef Checkoff working group that has failed to come up with any proposals. Concerns received more attention recently after the National Farmers Union voted to leave the working group, claiming NCBA was uncooperative in the group.
Source: NAFB News Service