WASHINGTON, Sept. 15, 2014 – Efforts to reform the beef checkoff, which doled out $182 million in producer funds between FY 2009 and 2013 for promotion and research, are beginning to show signs of fatigue as organizations demonstrate frustration with the process.
The United States Cattlemen’s Association board of directors has unanimously voted not to support a proposed memorandum of understanding (MOU) drafted by the Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group (BCEWG). With this vote, the organization has stated intentions to support Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s plan to potentially handle beef checkoff reform administratively.
“Clearly, the BCEWG's MOU does not meet key producer concerns and the board has acted accordingly,” USCA President Jon Wooster said in a statement released by the organization. “USCA has whole-heartedly engaged in this process since the beginning, but believes the process has exhausted itself and we will now shift our focus to supporting Secretary Vilsack's stated intentions.”
The board of the National Farmers Union voted earlier this month to withdraw from the BCEWG, saying unnamed “key players” in the group were unwilling to allow “real reforms” to take place. NFU President Roger Johnson said the group was “going in circles” after three years of meetings.
The working group – comprised of the American Farm Bureau Federation, American National Cattlewomen, Cattlemen’s Beef Board, Federation of State Beef Councils, Livestock Marketing Association, Meat Importers Council of America, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Livestock Producers Association, National Milk Producers Federation, NFU, and USCA – was created in 2011 at the request of Vilsack to create reforms within the beef checkoff.
USCA said Vilsack “made it clear” he would not intervene in the process until groups affiliated with the checkoff had “exhausted all possibilities” on checkoff reform. Many reforms have been on the table during negotiations including: rewriting the checkoff so it would be governed by the 1996 Commodity Promotion Act, which covers similar programs for other commodities, holding periodic producer referendums on the checkoff, and changing the checkoff’s governance structure.
With USCA’s vote, the organization has publicly entrusted checkoff reform to Vilsack.
“The secretary's actions are needed and timely and USCA looks forward to engaging with USDA and members of our industry in rewriting a new Beef Checkoff Order in a manner that addresses the needs and interests of all U.S. cattle producers,” Wooster said.
“We encourage Secretary Vilsack to take immediate steps to implement the substantial reforms needed, which will protect the future of the checkoff and allow it to grow and to work more efficiently in today's beef industry environment. USCA eagerly awaits the secretary's next steps and we stand ready to work with him and other stakeholders."
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