The Beef Promotion Operating Committee approved spending the Cattlemen's Beef Board (CBB) Fiscal Year 2009 program budget  of $42 million on a total of 35 national checkoff programs. But it definitely was not an easy process, as committee members passionately debated proposals in an effort to find places to cut expenditures enough to meet decreasing revenue projections.
“Anyone who sat in that room this week as we struggled to identify the least-damaging places to make cuts in checkoff programs for next year will tell you that it was difficult at best, and certainly emotional,” Bateman said. “As we have watched checkoff assessments dwindle during the last couple of years, we have trimmed anything and everything that we thought we could sacrifice and still have successful programs. Cutting more programs touched some nerves. But members of this committee stepped up and made the difficult decisions.”
The plan of work funds promotion, research and information programs and is designed to build demand for beef using national checkoff funds. The Operating Committee, which is made up of 10 CBB members and 10 representatives from state beef councils, had to balance the industry’s requests for funding against anticipated checkoff collections for Fiscal Year 2009. USDA still must approve the plan before any funds can be expended.
Cuts in program budgets were spread across various categories to minimize the overall effect of the budget reduction. Some deeper cuts were required, however, with the hardest hits in funding for producer communications, including the Beefmobile; youth education; and the Beef Ambassador Program. Despite these cuts, programs funded in new product development, consumer information and public relations have youth-education elements in them to provide continuous reach to America’s youth.
It's news like this that has me anxious to get started writing on the upcoming BEEF Daily Blog. For now, my commentary will have to do, and today I write with a heavy heart. It's never easy deciding where to cut Beef Checkoff Dollars, and I realize that it was an emotional rollercoaster for everyone on the Operating Committee as they cut millions of dollars from program initiatives, cutting entire programs completely.
However, I believe the Operating Committee made a huge mistake when they decided to the cut the National Beef Ambassador Program (NBAP). I served in 2006, and I can tell from first hand experience that this program is A) The most effective way to speak to consumers about beef B) The most influencial voice for cattlemen to hear who don't understand the Beef Checkoff Program and C) The elite and premier youth organization in the United States.
I realize that the average age of a cattle rancher is 50+ years old, and I understand that the major dollars rest in the hands of this generation. I just wonder why we have forgotten about our nation's youth? Why are the young people in agriculture not important? Why should they be cut out entirely when other programs merely took a hit in their operating budgets? Afterall, we are agriculture's future, and I know I wouldn't be who I am today without NBAP.
Thank goodness for NCBA's Young Producer Council. A good program will not be lost forever. They will be looking towards the future for finding private funding to continue the beef ambassador program. I will keep you updated as progress is made.
We are working on getting a section for comments here on the BEEF Magazine site, but until then, please send your thoughts to me at [email protected] . I would love to hear your opinion on this topic.