Checkoff checkupWritten by Jennifer Womack
Casper – U.S. Senator John Tester (D-Mont.) on Sept. 30 in Billings, Mont. introduced legislation supporters say will “modernize” the American Beef Checkoff.
In announcing the Beef Checkoff Modernization Act Tester said the beef checkoff should be used to promote American beef. Approved in 1985, the beef checkoff is a $1 per head assessment with funds in Wyoming going to the Wyoming Beef Council and the national-level Cattlemen’s Beef Board. It’s the program behind the well known “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner” slogan.
“The slogan ought to be ‘American beef, it’s what’s for dinner,’” Tester said, noting the legislation’s introduction comes simultaneous to Country of Origin Labeling’s implementation. Highlights of Tester’s legislation appear as a sidebar to this article.
“The Beef Checkoff Modernization Act is the perfect combination for COOL,” said U.S. Cattlemen’s Association director emeritus Leo McDonnell. “This is a common sense bill that increases the marketability of U.S. beef and strengthens the role of producers in the Beef Checkoff.
“Today’s marketplace is dysfunctional because U.S. producers are forced to pay to market and promote their competitors’ product,” explained R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard. “Currently the Checkoff allows only the promotion of generic beef, which means all the imported beef products get to ride the coattails of the U.S. farmer and rancher who are footing the lion’s share of the bill for Checkoff promotional activity.”
Tester cited a 2006 U.S. Department of Agriculture Survey of about 8,000 American ranchers. An overwhelming 92 percent of those surveyed said they wanted to see Checkoff money used to promote U.S. beef. Tester’s bill is S. 3404.
In a Sept. 30 statement the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association supported the checkoff but didn’t take a position on the pending legislation or its individual elements. “As a producer-funded, producer-directed and producer-administered program, the current beef checkoff enjoys high producer support,” said the NCBA statement. “Seven in 10 producers support the beef checkoff and that support has been constant for several years, according to annual producer surveys.”
The NCBA statement continued, “The Beef Checkoff Program has contributed to an increase in beef demand, has defended our product from crises like BSE and continues to be the best way for producers to ensure consumers – here and in countries around the world – continue to love U.S. beef. NCBA will be actively involved in discussions about this and any other bills regarding the beef checkoff.
Most importantly, any changes to the Beef Checkoff Program should build upon the success and efficiencies of current program and maintain producer oversight of their checkoff dollars through state beef councils and the Beef Promotion Operating Committee.”