The Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group on Friday concluded a two-day meeting in Denver, Colo., releasing a memorandum of understanding proposing several changes to the beef checkoff.
Among highlights, the MOU supports legislation to increase the beef checkoff assessment from $1 to $2 and conduct a referendum to determine acceptance of the increase after one year. The MOU also suggested a nominating process for candidates to the Beef Promotion Operating Committee.
Seven organizations – American Farm Bureau Federation, the American National CattleWomen, Inc., the Livestock Marketing Association, the Meat Import Council of America, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the National Livestock Producers Association and the National Milk Producers Federation – supported the MOU.
The National Farmers Union has exited the BCEWG process; The U.S. Cattlemen's Association abstained from MOU approval.
According to USCA past President Jon Wooster, the group declined to approve the MOU because the working group could never reach consensus on structural changes, except for changing the date organizations had to be formed to be an eligible checkoff contractor.
USCA said it considered the MOU changes, including the added assessment and reorganization of the nominating process, determining that the nominating change may compound its concerns about conflict of interest in the checkoff.
"At first glance this proposed change looked promising, but after further consideration we realized we were compounding the 'conflict of interest' concern by putting national organizations that were contracting for Checkoff dollars on the nominating committee, which is the committee who selects the Beef Promotion Operating Committee that decides who is awarded contracts for Checkoff dollars.
"Unfortunately the MOU fell far short of our expectations in the form of structural changes that would warrant USCA's support for an increase in the assessment," Wooster said.
National Farmers Union Roger Johnson also shared similar concerns, suggesting the MOU "will fail to achieve the real reforms that need to be made."
Other changes in the MOU include:
• Assessments will continue to be collected; State Beef Councils will have the authority to retain 50% of the assessment.
• A refund of the additional assessment amount, but not the current $1 per head, will be available to beef producers paying into the checkoff.
• Every five years, the Secretary of Agriculture will allow beef checkoff payers to request a referendum; if 10% of payers request one, it will be conducted. The wishes of beef checkoff payers indicated by a majority vote in the referendum will be implemented.
• The new Joint Nominating Committee, which will recommend candidates to serve on the Beef Promotion Operating Committee, will include members from the Cattlemen's Beef Board, the Federation of State Beef Councils, and other national organizations representing beef checkoff payers.
• The Cattlemen's Beef Board will annually provide all interested eligible contractors information and training on the contracting process.