Missouri director of agriculture Richard Fordyce announced April 25 that the state will not establish a new beef checkoff. The announcement came after referendum results showed that nearly 75% of the state’s cattle producers did not support it.
On Dec. 23, 2015, the director had approved a petition to conduct a referendum of Missouri cattle producers, at the request of the Missouri Beef Industry Council, to establish a $1.00-per-head state beef checkoff assessment. This would have added to the $1.00-per-head national beef checkoff program Missouri producers were already paying.
On April 4, 2016, ballots were mailed to the 8,480 Missouri beef producers who registered during the registration period. Of those, 6,568 valid ballots were returned to the Missouri Department of Agriculture postmarked no later than April 15. The results showed that 1,663 producers (25.33%) favored the checkoff, while 4,903 producers (74.67%) were against it.
The Missouri Cattlemen’s Assn., Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri Dairy Assn. and Missouri Dairy Industry Alliance supported establishing the checkoff and issued a statement expressing disappointment that it did not pass.
"We are disappointed the proposed Missouri $1 beef checkoff was not approved, because it provided additional resources for Missouri cattle producers to voluntarily work together to improve their industry,” the groups said. “Concerns with declining beef prices and the misinformation about beef disseminated by radical animal rights groups will not go away, and we will continue to look for ways to promote Missouri beef and help educate consumers.”
Opponents of the checkoff, on the other hand, argued that the new checkoff was an attempt to force Missouri’s 50,000 cattle farmers to pay more than $2 million a year into a new "unaccountable" state beef checkoff program.
“U.S. cattle producers have already paid over $2 billion into the federal beef checkoff program, which has been a failure,” the Missouri Rural Crisis Center (MRCC) said. “Beef consumption is down 32%, 40% of Missouri cattle operations have gone out of business and more and more of our checkoff dollars are going to promote foreign beef. Adding a new mandatory checkoff clearly was not the answer.”
MRCC called the rejection a “tremendous victory” for Missouri cattle farmers and the future of the industry as “thousands of family farmers said loud and clear that they do not support paying any additional beef checkoffs.”