The board of directors of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association approved policy at last week's Cattle Industry Convention putting the association on record as supporting an increase in the assessment for the national beef checkoff program. The resolution did not specify how large the assessment should be. However, the board also approved a separate "directive" that does not carry the weight of policy that "the sense" of the board is that an increase to $2 is needed "to adequately fund" the checkoff.
The checkoff currently assesses $1 per head from beef and dairy producers in all cattle selling transactions, an amount that was established in the creation of the checkoff program by Congress in the 1985 farm bill. However, analysis shows that, due to inflation, it takes $1.90 today to buy what $1 bought in 1985.
"Twenty plus years of inflation have really eroded the beef checkoff's ability to fulfill all the expectations we have placed on it over the years," says NCBA President John Queen. "And increases in beef production have come primarily from higher cattle weights, rather than herd expansion. That's another reason revenues don't keep up with the industry's needs. We're producing more beef, but the revenue we need to market it doesn't keep pace."
For the increase to become effective, the Congressional enabling legislation would need to be amended, and the increase then would need to be approved in a producer referendum.
The resolution also called for the legislation to be amended to allow for periodic petitioning that, under certain conditions, would trigger a continuation referendum and to allow for non-profit organizations established since 1985 to contract to do checkoff projects.
The board also passed a related resolution instructing NCBA to investigate the extent to which checkoff-funded promotion of "U.S. born and raised beef" would violate agreements with importers, who also are assessed $1 per head on selling transactions involving imported cattle or an equivalent amount for imported beef. NCBA is to report its findings to the agricultural policy committee by June 1, according to the resolution.
The checkoff funds beef advertising and promotion, consumer information, industry research and producer education.