The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food & Forestry announced that the refundable Oklahoma Beef Checkoff referendum failed with 2,506 no votes and 1,998 yes votes.
If passed, the new beef checkoff program would have mandated all Oklahoma cattle producers to pay the Oklahoma Beef Council an additional $1 for every head of cattle they sell. Currently, under a federally mandated beef checkoff program, all cattle producers are required to pay $1 per head sold. The state referendum would have brought in an additional $3.2 million per year.
Voting was conducted by early ballot Oct. 2-20 and by in-person voting on Nov. 1st at county extension offices. All ballots were received, tabulated, verified and sampled by a third-party auditor and delivered directly to Oklahoma secretary of agriculture Jim Reese. Eligible voters included all Oklahoma beef producers and those who would be required to pay the $1 assessment.
“As a rancher, I face challenges every day,” said Weston Givens, rancher and president of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Assn. “Unfortunately, those daily challenges are nothing compared to the growing challenges that our industry faces, such as aggressive anti-meat activist groups trying to remove beef from the menu and misleading claims about food safety and animal care. It is disheartening that the Oklahoma beef checkoff was defeated, but I’m still proud of the strong collaborative effort of the Vote Yes Coalition and our grassroots campaign.”
“This is an unfortunate loss for the beef industry here in Oklahoma,” said Michael Kelsey, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Assn. executive vice president. “Investing in a state-level beef checkoff would have greatly increased the opportunities to market, promote and educate consumers about beef and beef producers. We ran a good campaign that worked hard to reach out and educate beef producers, but ultimately, we were defeated today by the same out-of-state activists that defeated State Question 777 last fall.”
The Organization for Competitive Markets and R-CALF USA had joined together on behalf of their Oklahoma members to lead the opposition to the referendum, calling out the state cattle group for attempting to double the checkoff assessment on every head of cattle sold.
Bill Bullard, chief executive officer of R-CALF USA, stated, "We were proud to stand with our Oklahoma members to ensure justice was carried out during this election. It is good to know that, in America, if you stand up for what is right, you can still win."
Texas adopted a state-level checkoff in 2014 by a two-thirds majority, with 7,080 Texas producers voting. This defeat in Oklahoma follows the 2013 defeat of the Texas Grain Indemnity fund referendum, which failed on a 507-1,687 vote.