Wisconsin Farmers Union (WFU) President Darin Von Ruden today called for major and immediate changes to the current Beef Checkoff program and urged WFU members to submit comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture about how to strengthen and modernize the outdated program.  

“Beef Checkoff dollars should be used for promotion and research – not by lobbying organizations pushing to maintain the status quo,” Von Ruden said. “It is important that WFU members take advantage of the opportunity to provide Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack with their valuable input by submitting comments to the USDA.”

Von Ruden stressed that because all comments must be submitted by 10:59 p.m. CST on Wed., Dec. 10, the time to act is now. Comments can be submitted at http://www.regulations.gov/index.jsp#!docketDetail;D=AMS-LPS-14-0081

WFU believes that any new Beef Checkoff should be a single program, modeled after the 1996 Act. It should promote exclusively domestic product and be controlled by producers who are actively involved in production agriculture.

In order to ensure that checkoff funds are not working against the economic interests of its members, Von Ruden stressed that any new Beef Checkoff program must include a clear separation between organizations receiving checkoff funds and all related commodity organizations which advocate and lobby for policy positions.

“The current Beef Checkoff is the only checkoff program that has failed to embrace this model,” Von Ruden said. “As a consequence, it fails to safeguard the interests of family farmers. It is time for that to change.”

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson agrees, pointing out that special interests tied to the checkoff have caused an enormous rift in the industry. “Ranchers dislike that their checkoff dollars are being controlled by a lobbying organization that is fighting against the very policies many of these ranchers support,” he said.

Johnson notes that the current Beef Checkoff is controlled by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), an organization that has “aggressively lobbied against a number of very important producer and consumer programs, frequently placing themselves in direct opposition to the very producers they purport to represent.”

WFU has a significant number of members who own dairy and beef cattle operations, making this issue extremely important to both the organization and the family farmers it represents.

“I strongly urge anyone who is concerned about the state of the current Beef Checkoff program to submit comments to the USDA today,” Von Ruden said. “This could be our best chance to make sure that our checkoff dollars are working for, rather than against family farmers.”