As I’ve visited with cattlemen and women throughout the country about the beef checkoff program, one message rings loudest: Results matter most. Those who pay the $1/head beef checkoff want a successful and effective program that builds beef demand – but one that efficiently utilizes funds without waste.
That view was reinforced at the 2011 Cattle Industry Summer Conference in Kissimmee, FL, in August. With decreasing cattle numbers and, consequently, reduced checkoff income, cattlemen and women at the meeting expressed their insistence on focusing on programs that get the most bang for the buck. This is especially true when today’s dollar has a quarter of the buying power it did when the checkoff started 25 years ago.
Producer directors on the Federation of State Beef Councils (FSBC) recognize the financial situation we’re in. That’s why we see it as critical to continue a strong state and national partnership that builds on the strong foundation we laid down through the years. That foundation goes back as far as the National Live Stock and Meat Board, which was established in 1922 and which created the Beef Industry Council (BIC) in 1963. The foundation also has 45 separate and interesting stories in the state beef councils that make up the Federation, and are the backbone of the national mandatory checkoff program.
The checkoff program today is what producers have said they wanted since the BIC was around in the 1960s, and what producers began developing in the late 1970s. That’s when mandatory checkoffs were first proposed.
Early ideas for a national mandatory program, however, were rejected by producers as being too confusing and too top-heavy, with too much bureaucracy. Twice in the 1970s, producers voted down proposals to create a mandatory national beef checkoff for these reasons.
After going back to the drawing board in the early 1980s, producer leaders came up with a plan they considered more streamlined and fair – and which kept more control at the state level, where programs had already been established. It also allowed producers a chance to see the program in action before they decided whether it was worth their investment. When the Beef Promotion Act and Order was passed into law in 1985, producers gave the program 18 months to operate before voting on whether to continue it. It was passed by a nearly 4-1 margin.
A big part of the success of the program – and producer confidence in it – is the work of state beef councils, which seamlessly roll out advertising, research and information created at the national level. Working together, the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, the Federation and its 45 state partners are able to help deliver a practical campaign to capture the minds and hearts of American consumers. Internationally, the U.S. Meat Export Federation works with the beef checkoff program to build demand for beef in other countries.
It has worked that way from the beginning. A merger between the National Cattlemen’s Association and the Meat Board in 1996 raised some questions, but here’s the bottom line: consumer demand for, and confidence in, beef has benefited from the beef checkoff program, and from the continuing participation of state beef councils and the Federation in the process.
I’m proud of the work the more than 650 directors on state beef councils do on behalf of the beef checkoff. It’s definitely a grassroots effort. And I’m proud, too, of the role we’re playing as a Federation in the program. Together, we’re making a positive impression on consumers with your checkoff dollars.