Opinion: Don't politicize producer's Checkoff

By Guest Author

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By Bob McCan

Over my past year as President of the NCBA, I have had a rare opportunity to look at all sides of the beef industry. And I have come to realize, that much like our country, the cattle industry has individuals and organizations that differ on their views of government involvement. By and large, the members of the NCBA, the members who I have represented this year, want less government involvement. They don't want the government to pick winners and losers. They don't want the government to tell them how to market their cattle, they don't want the government to market their beef, and they sure don't want the government to run their research, education and promotion. The government is distant and ineffective when it comes to doing the work of private industry.

Lets Talk Food

But there are also those who do want the government to do all these things and more. They aren't all of one mind, but they sometimes feel at a disadvantage, they are a minority and the easiest way to tip the scales toward the minority, is if the government steps in and throws off the balance. This is nothing new; the government has been picking winners and losers since the very beginning. One of the very first cases ever to come before the Supreme Court was McCulloch v. Maryland, where the fourth Supreme Court Chief Justice, Justice Marshall wrote that “the power to tax was the power to destroy.”

The government power to tax, regulate and legislate is unparalleled in our economy. And now there are some that are looking to that authority to again tip the scales in their favor to fix what they perceive as an inequity. Their policy positions have fallen out of favor with the majority, they have been dealt one loss after another, and they cling to a system of production that no longer exists or is no longer practical. And like a wounded snake, they lash out at everything that moves, in the hopes they can latch on to something with their remaining venom. The problem is, that never solves the issue, it only hurts the industry.

The National Farmers Union and other groups oppose NCBA's member passed policy. That is fine; there is always room for dissent in organized debate and our government system works on adversarial positions, where in the end the right outcome is found. But to bring your losses from the adversarial arena of policy and politics to the public arena of education is foul. Just because you lose, doesn't mean the system is flawed, sometimes you're just wrong.

Cattlemen and women nationwide, benefit from a Beef Checkoff that is non-partisan and non-political. A Beef Checkoff that is administered by boards of producers at the national and state levels and overseen by the USDA. A Beef Checkoff where national organizations that meet the most basic of requirements have a chance to submit their proposals for national funding.

So next time you hear someone throw stones, ask them if they have submitted a contract, if they have had an opportunity to submit a name for the Beef Board, if they have sat in on these meetings and given input.

The National Farmers Union was an active participant in meetings of several national organizations working to enhance the Beef Checkoff Program and when the groups had agreed on a concept to discuss with their respective boards on enhancing the Beef Checkoff, National Farmers Union pulled out. That doesn't sound to me like they ever intended to reach a compromise. Fact is, the rhetoric from the National Farmers Union has been so inconsistent on this issue it's impossible to determine what they want. One thing is clear; they want to get rid of the current Beef Checkoff that is supported by 78 percent of beef producers, because they mistakenly think it will humiliate the NCBA. You can disagree with our positions, you can deny our success, or you can join and craft policy engage in debate, but do not use a program that benefits everyone in the cattle industry as a political battering ram for your personal or professional gain.

Bob McCan is a beef producer from Victoria, Texas, who currently serves as the president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

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