U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced creating a new, separate and supplemental beef checkoff program after members of the Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working group had failed to reach a consensus on beef checkoff program reforms.
Over the past three years, the working group has been working on recommendations for the program that satisfy all 11 parties involved.
In a press conference, Forrest Roberts National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) chief executive officer said “This Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group has been working together for little over two if not three years in trying to find ways we can make the current checkoff program more effective and more efficient.”
Roberts noted over the years the group had brought about several changes to the beef checkoff program. Two significant areas included making modifications to the contracting authority procedures and joint advisory committee structure.
As result of three facilitated meetings, structured to put difference aside among stakeholders, a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was developed by the working group.
Last month, the National Farmers Union (NFU) officially withdrew from the working group over concerns the implementation of the MOU which triggered Secretary Vilsack to call an informal meeting with committee members (Feedstuffs, Sept. 15, 2014).
However, Roberts confirmed that some members of the working group were not invited to the meeting.
“The members of the working group that were not invited to the meeting with the secretary were Cattlemen’s Beef Board and the Federation of State Beef Councils,” Roberts said.
Roberts -representing NCBA- joined other organizations including American Farm Bureau Federation, Livestock Marketing Association, NFU and U.S. Cattlemen’s Association in the meeting with Secretary Vilsack.
Prompted by the lack of progress from the beef industry to agree mutually on the reforms for the beef checkoff program, Vilsack offered different solutions to bring more resources into the beef industry, Roberts explained.
Acting under the 1996 Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act, Vilsack said the USDA is drafting an additional beef checkoff program of its own to run parallel to the already established beef checkoff program. The actual assessment rate is yet to be determined but $1 per head was mention during the meeting.
"We applaud Secretary Vilsack’s decision to become involved in the discussions surrounding the beef checkoff,” said Donn Teske, NFU vice president. “It is a step in the right direction for family farmers and consumers alike that Secretary Vilsack is actively addressing the situation after three and a half years of inaction from the Beef Checkoff Working Group.”
Moreover, he added, “In order to fundamentally change the checkoff, we must address the assessment, the beef operating committee and the fact that a single organization receives 93% of the checkoff dollars. NFU intends to do just that in its recommendation to the U.S Department of Agriculture and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack.”
The new beef order would be executed in the next year and implement by January 2016. In addition, the new checkoff program will be published in the Federal Register and subjected to comments.
Upon execution, the proposed checkoff program will operate alongside the current beef checkoff program for three years before a producer referendum would be held to decide whether the two checkoff programs should continue to exist.