How do cattlemen across the country feel about U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s idea to create a second Beef Checkoff Program? Bob McCan, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Texas cattle rancher, says 45 state cattlemen’s groups representing more than 170,000 cattle breeders, producers and feeders have locked arms to tell the Secretary "hands off."

Secretary Vilsack first discussed his plan for a supplemental checkoff program during a September 30 meeting of some members of the Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group, a group of 11 organizations that have been working to develop plans to reform the current checkoff.

Frustrated that the group has not yet reached a consensus to his liking, the Secretary took matters into his own hands by announcing he may issue an Order for a supplemental beef checkoff under the 1996 General Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act. A move the state cattlemen’s groups say would result in more bureaucracy and give more power and control to the federal government.  

“NCBA stands firmly behind our grassroots producer organizations and we will do everything we can to support their efforts. The checkoff belongs to cattlemen, not to the USDA or any administration,” McCan says.

Established by the 1985 Farm Bill with input and support from beef producers, the Beef Checkoff Program was created to fund projects related to promotion, research, consumer education and international marketing. Of the $1 per head assessment, half is allocated to state beef councils and half goes to the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board (CBB) to administer the national checkoff program.

And producers are satisfied with the checkoff today, which boasts the support of 78 percent of beef producers and has returned about $11.20 per dollar invested to the beef industry between 2006 and 2013 according to a recent economic study conducted to measure the return on producer’s and importers’ investment. Additionally, the study concluded that had there not been any CBB-funded marketing, domestic beef demand would have been 15.7 billion pounds less (11.3 percent) and foreign demand for U.S. beef would have been 6.4 percent lower during that same time period.

What would change under a 1996 Act checkoff? According to the letter, there is no assurance of protection of state beef councils’ involvement in a checkoff under the 1996 Act, which the letter says is too “open-ended and subject to government, not producer, direction.” Instead, the groups urge Secretary Vilsack to help “enhance the Beef Checkoff Program through the 1985 Beef Promotion and Research Act, not through heavy-handed, federally-mandated action.”

What do you think? Leave a comment below. 

If you agree with the 45 state cattlemen’s groups, you can weigh in with the White House by signing a petition telling the administration to leave the Beef Checkoff Program alone. Take a look at the petition by clicking here