Group informs Ag Secretary of its members’ checkoff policies

Farm Forum

Billings, Mont. — In a recent letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, R-CALF USA provided a list of primary and secondary elements to be included in any future beef checkoff program. The letter is intended to address the Secretary’s recent announcement that he plans to establish a new beef checkoff program under the Commodity Promotion, Research, and Information Act of 1996.

The group explained that its list of essential elements for any future beef checkoff program was derived directly from R-CALF USA’s policy resolutions that had been voted on by its cattle-producing members.

“R-CALF USA is the largest producer-only cattle trade association in the United States and its thousands of cattle-owning members are major contributors to the mandatory Beef Checkoff Program. Over the past decade our members have thoughtfully considered what elements must be included in a beef checkoff program to make it credible and worthy of producer support,” the letter stated.

Included among the eight items the group labeled as “Primary Elements” are:

• Policy-oriented advocacy organizations must not be eligible to contract for checkoff funds.

• If a Federation of State Beef Councils is to have any decision-making authority in a checkoff program, it must be a legally independent organization with no ties to any policy-oriented advocacy group.

• Any governing board for a beef checkoff program must have the authority to contract directly with service providers, but not policy-oriented advocacy organizations, to carry out program objectives.

• A significant portion of beef checkoff funds collected in the U.S. must be used to promote beef exclusively born, raised, and slaughtered in the United States, which may necessitate a corresponding allowance for importers to promote their imported beef.

• Research to enhance the raising of live cattle should be an eligible expenditure under any checkoff program.

The group’s letter concludes: “If a new or reformed checkoff program is established as a purely voluntary, opt-in program, then many of the safeguards recommended above may be unnecessary. This is because the critical need for the above-recommended safeguards arises from the current, mandatory national Beef Checkoff Program that is fraught with conflicts of interest, inefficiencies, abuses and downright waste.

“Mr. Secretary, we look forward to working with you to finally put an end to the glaring problems associated with the current national Beef Checkoff Program.”