WASHINGTON, Oct. 15, 2015 – The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and 45 state associations sent a letter to Agriculture Tom Vilsack on Tuesday urging him to reconsider his efforts to increase funding for the beef industry by reforming the Beef Checkoff administratively.

In the letter, the groups said they “do not support further federal government control of the national Beef Checkoff Program, or involvement of the beef industry in the Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996.” The beef checkoff is currently governed by the 1985 Beef Promotion and Research Act, which explicitly mentions the role of state beef councils in beef checkoff governance.

NCBA president Bob McCan said Vilsack’s reform efforts, if implemented, would be harmful to cattle producers.

“The Beef Checkoff serves all beef producers, nationwide, and the recent efforts by Secretary Vilsack do not serve the interests of producers, they only serve to politicize and polarize the industry,” McCan said in a statement. “We are focused on how the Beef Checkoff can do more to support cattlemen and women; the Administration has focused on how they can use the Beef Checkoff for political spoils and to increase the control of the federal government.”

In addition to the letter sent by the state beef councils, NCBA’s website now lists two online forums to voice dissention with Vilsack’s plans to pursue checkoff reform administratively.

A link to “Submit a Letter” allows participants to send a form letter addressed to Vilsack and their congressional representatives. Participants can also choose to “Sign our Petition” and add their digital signature to a WhiteHouse.gov petition calling on the Obama administration to block Vilsack’s plan for reforms to the beef checkoff, citing the success of the program already in place. The petition needs 100,000 signatures before Nov. 12 to receive a response from the administration. At last count, the petition had 66 signatures.

Since Vilsack announced his plans to add a parallel checkoff governed under the ’96 Act, NCBA has been vocal in its opposition. The organization is seeking to keep the checkoff under the ’85 act. NCBA’s concern include the potential elimination of grassroots involvement through a checkoff that doesn’t involve the State Federation of Beef Councils, which currently has a role in allocation of beef checkoff funds. McCan said he hopes NCBA’s efforts will keep the checkoff in the hands of those that contribute to it.

“NCBA stands firmly behind our grassroots producer organizations and we will do everything we can to support their efforts. The checkoff belongs to cattlemen, not to the USDA or any administration,” McCan said.

Under the current Beef Checkoff, $1 is collected from every head of cattle sold to finance research and beef promotion. (For more background on this issue, see the last two issues of Agri-Pulse.)


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