It’s been a busy week for cattlemen in my neighboring state of Minnesota. First, the annual FarmFest has been underway. Second, the Minnesota State Fair officially got started. And finally, the Minnesota Beef Council (MBC) and Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association (MSCA) introduced a referendum to raise the state’s checkoff rate by $1.
The call for increasing the checkoff has been rumbling through the countryside for many years. With fewer cattle, that means fewer dollars, which results in less money to fund research, host educational events and promote beef to consumers. That reality was behind the moves by beef producers in Washington, Idaho and Alabama, to name a few, which have instituted state beef checkoffs of an additional 50¢ to $1/head on top of the national $1 checkoff. And other states are also considering such actions to boost home-state promotion of beef.
MSCA launched a new website – raisedwithpride.com - which allows cattlemen to request a ballot to vote for or against the referendum. It also fully explains what the referendum entails. The referendum will come to a vote in February 2014. Ballot sign-up must be requested by Dec. 15, 2013. If passed, it would increase the checkoff by an additional $1 for every head sold. This would result in an additional $500,000-$750,000 for MBC to promote beef in the state.
According to a recent press release, “The proposed state checkoff would differ from the federal checkoff currently being collected. If the state checkoff is passed, the entire $1 stays in the state to communicate with influencers and consumers; is voluntary, a refund can be requested through the Minnesota Department of Agriculture; only applies to Minnesota cattle, sold in Minnesota; does not apply to dairy animals being sold for breeding purposes; falls under the jurisdiction of the state beef promotion order and will only be spent on projects in Minnesota.”
Additionally, MBC and MSCA are reaching out to consumers with a new campaign called “Raised with Pride, Handled with Care,” which will show folks where their beef comes from.
BEEF Senior Editor Burt Rutherford commented on this subject saying, “This is very likely the leading edge of a number of efforts at the state beef council and state cattlemen’s association level to adjust to the twin realities of declining cattle numbers and declining checkoff dollars. Ultimately a national referendum will be necessary, but until that happens, any effort to keep checkoff expenditures anywhere close to a level necessary to move the needle on beef demand will have to happen at the state level.”
I agree with Rutherford that it’s only a matter of time before more states follow suit and request additional dollars from their state’s producers. I also anticipate that moves like Minnesota's will fuel those who are checkoff concept altogether. Of course, one of producers' comfort points with the state checkoffs is that they tend to be more personally familiar with the folks managing the state checkoff program. Whether you live in Minnesota or not, I think this is a good time to ask a few questions from all of you: Would you support a $2/head checkoff in your state? Do you support the checkoff? Why or why not? What is the assessment level in your state? Is it working for you? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
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