Beef checkoff reform group offers memo of possible changes

By Spencer Chase

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Jan. 28, 2015 - After three years of often fruitless meetings, a group seeking changes in the beef checkoff could be one step closer to a finished product with a new memo that's being circulated to stakeholder organizations.

Members of the Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group (BCEWG) have been trying to reform the checkoff, a $1-per-head assessment on all cattle sold that is used for research and promotion of U.S. beef.

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The process has been as tumultuous as it has been unproductive, with points of common ground few and far between. In September, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack even took it upon himself to propose a parallel checkoff, a move that frustrated many member groups until Congressional action stopped further administrative efforts.

Now, the BCEWG - comprised of the 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 United States Cattlemen's Association - is seeking opinions from involved organizations on a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) before they meet again in mid-March. The primary changes include:

·       Increasing the assessment by $1, bringing the national checkoff to $2 per head.

·       Allowing a producer to request a refund on the additional assessed dollar.

·       Providing for a periodic, five-year referendum on whether to continue the checkoff or change the rate of assessment. A referendum would be held if requested by 10 percent of producers.

·       Changes in the Beef Production Operating Committee (BPOC) - the board that approves projects for checkoff finding - moving away from an even split of 10 members each from the Cattlemen's Beef Board (CBB) and the State Federation of Beef Councils. 

The draft MOU proposes that the BPOC be kept at 20 members and be made up of the chair of the CBB, who will hold the same position with the BPOC, and the chair of the Federation, who will serve as BPOC vice chair. The remaining 18 BPOC members will be nominated by a newly-created BPOC nominating committee made up of seven members of the CBB, seven members of the Federation, and up to seven representatives of organizations representing contributors to the beef checkoff for a maximum of 21 members.

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