NOBULL: Beef producers can vote on Beef Checkoff

Beef producers can vote on Beef Checkoff

February 28, 2014 Ohio agriculture.

The Ohio Cattlemen’s Association has initiated a referendum that is currently ongoing to increase Ohio’s Beef Checkoff from $1 to $2 per head. Voting by mail ballot is underway with in-person voting set for March 18, 19, and 20 at the Ohio Department of Agriculture and county Extension offices. Below are are two position statements on the vote for increasing the Ohio Beef Checkoff.

Vote Yes

By Frank Phelps, Ohio Cattlemen’s Association president and Logan County beef producer

There are many reasons the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association (OCA) board of directors initiated the referendum. Most importantly OCA supports the work of the beef checkoff to build demand for beef and believes increasing those shrinking resources is the right thing to do for the future of Ohio’s beef industry. And there is no better time to increase the checkoff. Based on today’s markets, finished steers are worth nearly $2,000. An additional dollar is only 5/100ths of the total value of that steer. Certainly not a large amount to invest to promote our product, and if we don’t promote it, no one else is going to do it for us.

Why is the current $1 not enough? Because the value of a dollar today is 53 cents less than when the checkoff began in 1985. The checkoff is also receiving less money as cattle numbers have declined to the lowest point since 1952. Just $1 more will increase the budget 300%, from $305,000 to approximately $900,000 and yet it will still remain one of the smallest checkoffs by amount and value of the commodity.

According to the Ohio Beef Council’s program, overseen by the Ohio Department of Agriculture, the additional $1 will be refundable, should a producer request a refund. However, only the second dollar is refundable because producers voted in 1989 to eliminate refunds on the existing dollar.

It’s natural for OCA to initiate the referendum, because the Ohio Beef Council that invests checkoff dollars in demand building programs, cannot by law advocate to pass a checkoff increase. OCA’s commitment to increasing the Ohio beef checkoff is supported by their actions that include paying for all expenses associated with the vote, although OCA will not benefit from any increase. The mission of OCA is very different from the mission of the Ohio Beef Council. They have separate boards and separate funding sources and a very big firewall that keeps the funds separate between the two organizations.

The differences between OCA and the Ohio Beef Council are clear, although some folks tend to confuse the two. Policy issues like Country-of-Origin Labeling or COOL are not remotely related to the beef checkoff. To be clear, checkoff funds cannot be used to address policy issues. The checkoff is only used to fund beef demand building programs. And its expenditures are subject to the closest of scrutiny.

The exciting aspect of this referendum is that all of the additional $1 will stay in Ohio to support beef demand building programs right here where nearly 12 million Ohio consumers reside. These consumers are looking for answers about where their food comes from, how it is produced, and if it is safe and nutritious.

These additional funds will not be used for administrative purposes or to hire new staff, but rather they will be invested in reaching our consumers with beef messages and to counter activists and anti-meat groups. They will fund programs including farm tours for health professionals, chefs, food writers and bloggers who influence how others think about beef. And they will extend beef’s presence in Ohio classrooms and help market beef to millennial parents, the next generation of beef consumers.

The Ohio Cattlemen’s Association encourages beef producers to join in this important effort to invest in our industry, our profits and our future by voting “Yes” on the beef checkoff.

Vote No

By Joe Logan, Ohio Farmers Union

In the coming weeks, farmers and ranchers will be asked to approve a proposal to increase the beef checkoff from $1 per head to $2 per head. The proposal is being marketed as an additional, refundable, Ohio-specific addition to the existing beef checkoff. Let’s take a closer look:

  • Livestock producers, including, large commercial feedlots from outside Ohio will be allowed to vote.
  • Ohio livestock producers, whose livestock are processed and marketed outside Ohio will be invited to vote.
  • The process for obtaining a refund of checkoff dollars as stipulated in Ohio Law (Ohio Revised Code (ORC) Section 924.09) is sufficiently complex and bureaucratic as to deter most producers from doing so.
  • In addition, the same section of Ohio Law stipulates that the Director of the checkoff program, may, in lieu of a refund, send the checkoff dollars to the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board.

Beyond these questionable marketing initiatives for the current proposal, The OFU urges beef producers to review the past and current position and activities of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), the primary contractor of the beef checkoff. According to a recent report by USDA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), the NCBA gets 82.3% of their funding from the beef checkoff. As such, one might expect that they would promote policies that favor U.S. beef producers and the domestic beef consumers. Not so.

On January 28, 2014, as the Farm Bill was nearing approval, Collin Woodall, NCBA’s V.P of Governmental Affairs said that their number one objective was to repeal Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for livestock products — a policy that is overwhelmingly supported by consumers and by independent farmers and ranchers. NCBA even called for the defeat of the Farm Bill, despite containing a multi-million dollar livestock disaster assistance program.

Another Farm Bill priority for the NCBA was to include language that would prevent USDA from implementing the provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill regarding the Grain Inspectors Packers and Stockyards Act (GIPSA) these rules were designed to promote fairness and transparency in livestock markets.

OFU, along with most consumers and most independent farmers and ranchers, strongly support COOL and the GIPSA rules. We find it amazing that NCBA, an organization funded primarily by a U.S. government-mandated beef checkoff program would oppose programs that are favorable to U.S. farmers, ranchers and consumers.

NCBA and the beef checkoff have presided over a dramatic reduction in the number of farmers and ranchers in the U.S. Per capita beef consumption has also declined during their tenure.

Sadly, the only plausible explanation for NCBA ‘s policy positions is that they are representing the interests of multi-national beef processors, such as JBS, the giant Brazilian beef processor that now owns some of the largest beef processors and feedlots in the U.S.

We believe that a doubling of the beef checkoff is neither prudent nor productive for Ohio Farmers.