National Beef Checkoff petition drive extended through Oct. 3
Billings, Mont. – In a letter sent recently, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack granted the organizers of the National Beef Checkoff Petition Drive until Oct. 3 to collect the necessary signatures on the petition calling for a producer vote of the National Beef Checkoff Program.
The South Dakota Livestock Auction Markets Association and Steve Stratford of Kansas-based Stratford Angus organized and initiated the National Beef Checkoff Petition Drive that began July 2, 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) originally established a 12-month period for the collection of the required 88,269 signatures.
R-CALF USA and other groups have helped to collect signatures but due to COVID-19-related restrictions, were unable to even meet with cattle producers for several months in locations such as livestock auction yards and public meeting places.
As a result, the organizers and assisting groups were principally relegated to relying upon an online petition site to collect signatures. That site, located at www.checkoffvote.com, currently has 18,790 signed petitions.
On May 20 the organizers made a formal, written request to Secretary Vilsack for a one-year extension for which to collect signatures given the extenuating, COVID-related circumstances.
Receiving no reply from Vilsack after the original 12-month period had expired on July 2 the organizers decided to keep the online petition site operational until a formal response was received.
The response from Vilsack was a denial of the organizers’ one-year extension request and, instead, a granting of a 60-day extension beyond the date of Vilsack’s letter. Vilsack wrote that this 60-day extension “reflects the prevailing will of producers.”
Along with the petition organizers’ request for a one-year extension, in May over 130 state legislators representing 11 states wrote Vilsack asking him to call for a producer referendum on his own.
In the letter, Vilsack indicates that he does not have the statutory authority to call for such a referendum unless it is requested by producers through the petition process.
“We don’t have much time, but R-CALF USA will do everything it can to help the organizers achieve the required signatures by the new deadline,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.