The Federation of State Beef Councils is supporting a new proposal to increase the beef checkoff while making some changes to ways the beef checkoff would operate.
Jennifer Houston, vice-chair of the Federation of State Beef Councils, and Scott George, 2014 past president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, presented proposed beef checkoff changes during the Federation Forum meeting Thursday afternoon at the NCBA Cattle Industry Convention.
The changes were outlined in a Memorandum of Understanding last month sent to the eight members of the Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group by NCBA leaders. The agreement proposes increasing the current checkoff fee of $1 per head of cattle sold to $2 per head of cattle sold. The extra $1 would be assessed in the same way as the existing fee, with $0.50 going to the CBB and the state option to keep $0.50 for state checkoff efforts.
Under the plan, cattle producers would get to vote on whether to increase the beef checkoff before it would go into effect. Producers also would be able to request a refund of that additional fee, but not the current $1 fee, the MOU states.
Houston noted the draft MOU presented Thursday was the culmination of three years of work by the eight organizations that make up the Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group. “This is a true compromise. None of us got all of what we wanted.”
The Federation executive board voted Tuesday to forward the MOU to the full Federation for a vote to approve the proposed changes. NCBA’s policy committee will also need to approve the proposal within the MOU in order for NCBA to agree to sign the MOU at the working group’s next meeting in March.
Checkoff funds are managed by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, which contracts with various organizations “to implement programs of promotion, research, consumer information, industry information, foreign marketing and producer communications” on behalf of American cattle producers.
Houston expressed support for the increased checkoff fee after noting the current $1 fee returned $11.20 in producer profits from 2006 to 2013.
One forum attendee expressed his support for the increased fee, adding “It’s time to act before the secretary [of agriculture] gets his hands on it again.” That reference was in regards to a proposal by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to create a separate checkoff last fall, a proposal that NCBA opposed and was eventually blocked by Congress.
The MOU also outlines proposed changes to the Beef Promotion Operating Committee (BPOC) and the committee that nominates members to that operating committee. The MOU proposes the Federation of State Beef Councils, the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and the other organizations involved in the Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group would each contribute members to constitue the 21-member nominating committee. The member organizations that make up the working group who sign the MOU will be eligible to elect members to the nominating committee, and other national organizations could become eligible at the discretion of the working group. Currently, the nominating committee consists of eight members from the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and seven members from the Federation.
The proposed nominating committee would then select nine members from the Federation and nine members from the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, while the chairman from each group will automatically sit on the operating committee.
The operating committee plays a critical role because the committee develops the annual budget for the Beef Board and determines which organizations receive checkoff dollars.
George briefly outlined a timeline. The Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group meets in early March and each group should have an answer from their respective memberships about signing the agreement.
The proposal is not without its critics. Opposition has come from groups that have left the Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group, such as the National Farmers Union, and groups that have been blocked from participating, such as the Ranchers-Cattleman’s Action Legal Fund, or R-CALF.
Should the eight groups now involved in the working group sign the MOU, they will then pursue action in Congress in late fall 2015 or spring 2016 to modify the Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985. If passed by Congress and signed by the president, a referendum must be voted on by producers to ultimately approve the checkoff fee increase. All told, George expects the process to take three years if the all of the organizations involved in the Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group sign the agreement this spring.
Members of the Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group include: American Farm Bureau Federation, American National Cattlewomen Inc., Livestock Marketing Association, Meat Import Council of America, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Livestock Producers Association, National Milk Producers Federation and the United States Cattlemen’s Association.