Current Edition

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What We Want

Written by Dennis Sun

By the first of the New Year, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack plans to roll out his proposed new beef checkoff of one dollar to fund a second, separate checkoff.  To a number of livestock producers, those are fighting words.

A lot of us don’t trust Washington, D.C. these days as we realize Congress is not capable of doing much at this time. At the same time, many major programs coming out of the agencies started in the White House. So, why a new, separate beef checkoff? And will meatless Mondays be a part of it?  We need more of an explanation than, “Everyone was fighting so much and couldn’t agree on anything. I’ll just start my own.”

A second checkoff raises a number of questions, such as how will the one dollar be collected, will the state Beef Councils be involved, and will it just be a tax on this nation’s beef producers? Remember, Washington tried to place an additional one dollar per animal unit month (AUM) fee on the West’s public land ranchers, so is this part of the major plan from Washington?

I have to be truthful here. There is a lot about the current checkoff that I’m not up on, but like other cattle producers, I know what we want from a beef checkoff. I read a personal opinion from a cattle producer, David Dick from Missouri, who is also the Federation of State Beef Councils chairman. Dick said producers have commented, “Results matter most. Those who pay the one dollar per head beef checkoff want a successful and effective program that builds beef demand – but one that efficiently utilizes funds without waste.”

I totally agree with that statement and I hope you do, too. I would add “that the government is not involved.”

Secretary Vilsack’s proposed program would be organized under the 1996 Generic Commodity Promotion Act and would operate concurrently with the existing one dollar per head checkoff that was created under the 1985 Beef Act and Order. So, we would have two beef checkoffs operating under two different laws. It really makes sense, doesn’t it?  

For the past three years, there has been a group meeting, the Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group, to improve the current beef checkoff. The working group, some 11 agricultural organizations, haven’t always agreed, but they kept meeting. In the last year, one group decided to leave the working group as a result of differences over language in the group’s Memorandum of Understanding.  It has been a rocky road for the group, but sounds like they have been trying.  And now the government butts in. That is wrong. Those in the know say, “It just doesn’t make sense.” 

What can we do? We can let our state livestock and ag organizations know our feelings, and they, in turn, can let the national organizations know. We have great congressional people in Washington, D.C., so visit with their staff here in the state and let them know your thoughts.  

It may take another law to stop this proposed second checkoff. We shouldn’t take it out on our state beef councils or the brand inspectors. They, too, are victims of the proposed checkoff.