USCA supports USDA review of Beef Checkoff

Farm Forum

USCA — The United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) board of directors voted to support the Secretary of Agriculture’s stated intent to overhaul the Beef Checkoff program. Secretary Vilsack has related publicly his frustration with the lack of substantial progress being made by the Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group (BCEWG) and said he is considering using his own authority to make changes to the program. The USCA board feels the same frustration and officially voted unanimously not to support the proposed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) drafted by the BCEWG.

USCA, together with National Farmers Union (NFU), initiated the BCEWG in 2011 at the request of the Secretary to address governance issues with the Beef Checkoff. The two groups originally requested the Secretary write a new Beef Checkoff Order under the 1996 Commodity Promotion Act. The Secretary made it clear he would not step in until the two groups had exhausted all possibilities of getting the major beef industry groups to work through the divisive issues surrounding the Beef Checkoff. The group consisted 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.

Three years of meetings culminated in a memorandum of understanding. The memorandum was designed to reflect the changes that the groups had found some degree of consensus on. It was the intention of the group that they would not move forward and sign the memorandum until it was approved by the governing body of each group involved. While all the groups have not made official decisions on the Memorandum, one of the guiding principles adhered to in the BCEWG is all the groups had to be on board to pursue any enhancement.

USCA President Jon Wooster issued the following statement:

“Cattle producers deserve an enhanced Checkoff program now, not a decade from now. The Secretary’s remarks concerning the Checkoff signify the Administration’s commitment to seeing this process through and enacting substantial reforms. 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 US cattle producers. USCA is hopeful of achieving meaningful Checkoff reform and have been since we first initiated these discussions with National Farmers Union three years ago”.

“USCA’s member-driven policy calls for very specific reforms to the national mandatory beef Checkoff, including: periodic, scheduled referendums; a complete separation of the Federation of State Beef Councils and any policy organizations; and no increase in the per head assessment until substantial, recommended enhancements are made.”

“Clearly, the BCEWG’s MOU does not meet key producer concerns and the board has acted accordingly. 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.”

“U.S. cattle producers deserve and need the most effective Checkoff program possible and too much time and energy have already been spent in the working group without a solution being reached. 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 to reform the Checkoff in a positive, meaningful manner.”