Industry surveys perennially show that the overwhelming majority of producers support the national beef checkoff program. Research also indicates that the self-help program of $1/cattle transaction has provided a tremendous return on producers’ investment, while the mandatory aspect of the program has proven to be the most effective way to collect and allocate dollars.
The baseline is that virtually everyone understands and agrees that it is important to make the investment in growing demand for beef. The downside to the current program, of course, is that the combination of inflation and declining cattle numbers have left the industry’s efforts to build beef demand sorely underfunded.
There’s been talk for a lot of years about raising the checkoff, which has remained at $1/head since the program’s inception a quarter-century ago. After all, calves are worth more than twice what they were when the checkoff first went into effect (beef production costs likewise doubled). So it shouldn’t be hard to admit that the diminished number and clout of checkoff dollars raised today is declining as a result.
Still, the momentum to raise the checkoff at the national level has had trouble taking shape. Part of this is due to the political shenanigans of a few years ago when a renegade bunch almost pulled the program down.
Yet, individual states have recognized the need to up the checkoff ante and have moved, or are moving, forward with raising their in-state checkoff assessments. Recently, the nation’s biggest cow state, Texas, successfully reached a consensus among stakeholders in the state to move forward with a proposal for a referendum to raise the in-state checkoff by $1. It’s not the first state to do so, but Texas moving on the issue is definitely a big signal regarding the trend.
While it still appears to be an uphill battle to raise the checkoff at the national level, such momentum is growing in individual states. This state trend is a hopeful sign that the industry will see more total dollars for beef promotion, research and advertising. If beef wants to seriously compete for the center of the plate, it can’t continue to cut great programs due to a lack of funding.
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