National Beef Checkoff Program looking to increase assessment to $2 per head

Farm Forum

PIERRE — From research, to education, to promotion, the Beef Checkoff Program aims to increase beef demand domestically and overseas. The one-dollar mandatory checkoff was established in the 1985 Farm Bill, and 30 years later, industry leaders are recognizing that the dollar doesn’t stretch as far as it used to.

“The purchasing power of the dollar compared to 1986 is about 47 cents considering inflation,” said Ron Frederick, South Dakota Beef Industry Council (SDBIC) executive director. “There are many promotions such as television advertisements or important research projects that help to build demand that we can no longer do because the funds aren’t there.”

With less purchasing power and the smallest national cowherd since the 1950s, there are fewer dollars being invested into the Beef Checkoff Program. Recognizing this problem, several industry organizations including the American Farm Bureau Federation, American National Cattlewomen Inc., Livestock Marketing Association, Meat Import Council of America, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Livestock Producers Association, National Milk Producers Federation, and United States Cattlemen’s Association have pulled together to form the Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group (BCEWG).

Recently, the BCEWG released a draft memorandum of understanding to enhance the Beef Checkoff Program by raising the checkoff assessment by one dollar to achieve a national rate of two dollars per head of cattle for each transaction. The second dollar would be refundable 30 days after the sale of the cattle.

For this proposed rule to pass, there are several hurdles to overcome, says Frederick.

“All of the organizations will need to sign off on this proposed rule,” he said. “Once approved, the proposal will be passed on to Congress. Once it gets through Congress, producers will have the opportunity to vote on the increase one year after legislation is enacted.

There are a couple of other notable changes to the proposed rule. First, the nominating committee for the Beef Promotion Operating Committee (BPOC) will have 21 people on it including seven from the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, seven from the Federation of State Beef Councils, and seven from beef industry organizations — four of which will come from the BCEWG, and the remaining three will be from a pool of beef industry groups selected at random from the USDA.

Secondly, every five years, the USDA will publicize a 30-day period of time during which checkoff stakeholders can request a referendum vote on the continuation of the checkoff. If 10% of producers request a referendum, a vote will be held to decide the future of the program.

“Discussion of the proposed changes will take place at the 2015 Cattle Industry Convention and Trade Show in San Antonio, TX, on Feb. 3-7,” said Frederick. “We will have several delegates from South Dakota attending the convention and expressing their opinions on the proposed changes to the checkoff.”

South Dakota delegates include CBB directors, Danni Beer, Linda Gilbert, Gary Sharp, and Vaughn Meyer, and Federation of State Beef Council directors, Karla Pazour, Gary Deering, Scott Jones and Becky Walth.

For more information about the beef checkoff, check out