Producer support for the $1-per-head beef checkoff program is at a 10-year high, with 73 percent of beef producers voicing approval of the Beef Checkoff Program in a January 2005 survey. That’s up from 70 percent in July 2004.

Cattlemen’s Beef Board Chairman Nelson Curry told Cattle Industry Annual Convention participants that the new data shows a level of support for the beef checkoff that is unmatched since the early 90s, when approval levels were in the low 80-percent range. The new research further indicates that only 18 percent of cattlemen disapprove of the checkoff, while 9 percent are undecided or neutral.

“The research results were positive on many levels,” said Curry, a Kentucky cattle producer. “Eighty percent of producers said they believe the beef checkoff had helped contribute to the positive trend in beef demand, 80 percent believe that the checkoff has value even when the cattle market is down, and 74 percent said they think the checkoff is a good value for the money invested.”

Conducted for the Cattlemen’s Beef Board by Aspen Media and Market Research, Boulder, Colo., the telephone survey of a random sample of beef and dairy producers nationwide was completed between Dec. 19, 2004 and Jan. 8, 2005 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percent.

Aspen Media’s lead researcher Dan Hoffman said the increased support for the program could be attributed, at least in part, to its increased visibility in the news. Forty-one percent of producers had recently seen, read or heard something about the beef checkoff, up from 34 percent in the summer survey. “Many cattlemen are aware that the beef checkoff’s fate is in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Hoffman. “That fact seems to have them paying more attention to their program.”

Curry said he finds it “ironic that two negative issues have helped shine a beacon on the value of this program.”

“First, BSE found in the U.S. and Canada has illustrated the need for a comprehensive public communications and crisis management effort,” Curry said. “And second, litigation challenging the Beef Checkoff Program is threatening to take away the crisis management program that we do have, as well as the promotional equity producers have in ‘Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner.’®”

Cattlemen also were asked to rank the importance of key Beef Checkoff Program areas. Listed were 10 strategic areas where checkoff dollars are focused to build demand for beef. Cattlemen ranked all of the strategies as important, but two were prioritized as particularly essential: maintaining consumer confidence in the safety of beef; and communicating beef’s nutritional value. Other important focus areas, as ranked by producer respondents, were: promoting beef’s enjoyment; promoting U.S. beef exports; new product development; working with retailers; working with restaurants; producer communications; product enhancement research; and consumer education and crisis response.

On other fronts, the January data shows that producer optimism is at 78 percent, down slightly from July 2004 when 82 percent of respondents reported feeling optimistic about the direction of their industry.Results also indicate that 73 percent of producers consider themselves informed about the checkoff, up 5 percent from July 2004.

The semi-annual survey of 1,225 producers is demographically representative of the various types of U.S. beef, veal and dairy operations in the United States, based on the 2002 Agricultural Census.

“As a researcher,” Hoffman said, “I can say that these survey results provide a positive report card for the beef checkoff.”